Il Melograno is one of the most cultivated fruit plants in the Mediterranean area; it has Asian origins, but already several centuries ago its cultivation spread in the hottest and driest areas of the Mediterranean, where it develops at its best. It is a large shrub, which produces numerous basal suckers, generally in cultivation the central stem is chosen and the suckers are removed, so as to allow the development of a small tree, with deciduous leaves; it has rough and wrinkled bark, of light color, the leaves are small lanceolate, of light green color, they become orange before falling, in autumn. In spring it produces small red flowers, enclosed in fleshy, slightly leathery buds, also bright red. The flowers are followed by large berries, called balaustas, of orange yellow or red color, or even in a mix of the three colors; the berries have a tenacious and thick skin, very fibrous, inside which there are innumerable small fleshy seeds, enclosed in thin yellow membranes, rich in tannins. The seeds are eaten raw, or their juice is obtained, and they have a different flavor depending on the variety of the plant, ranging from very acidic seeds, to semi-sweet ones and very sweet ones, more suitable for fresh consumption.
The pomegranate, in Latin Punica granatum, finds its place in full sun, or in any case in the sunniest part of the garden, fears the shadow, which favors the attack by parasites and fungi. It does not need particular soil, as long as it is well drained; this plant is very tenacious and well developed even in compact or stony soils. It does not like the excesses of rainfall, and is certainly more suitable for a Mediterranean climate, with very hot and dry summers and mild winters, although in areas with low winter rainfall it can bear even persistent frosts without problems. It does not require great cultivation care, even if the plants of the orchards for the commercial production of pomegranates are fertilized with a slow release fertilizer in spring, and watered in the period of fruit ripening, but only if there is little or no precipitation.
A pomegranate in the garden
In the home garden, the pomegranate is a plant with very low maintenance; occasionally in spring the longer and thinner branches are shortened, and the many basal suckers that the plant produces continuously are periodically removed.
There are also dwarf varieties of punica granatum, which remain below 60-70 cm in height; they also produce small flowers and tiny inedible fruits. Generally these small pomegranates are used as low borders or for bonsai breeding.
Pomegranate - Punica granatum: Flower pomegranates
Numerous varieties of Punica granatum exist on the market, which are distinguished by the taste of the fruits, but also by the flowers; in fact over the years cultivars with pink or white flowers, very double or large, have been produced, which make the plant decidedly very decorative. Unfortunately, in most of the flower varieties, the fruits are of modest size, or with a decidedly very sour taste, so as to make them inedible.
Pomegranate fruits are also used in the kitchen to prepare sauces or as an unusual accompaniment to meat or fish; their particular taste, with an acidulous bottom, makes them suitable also in combination with savory dishes.
With pomegranate, grenadine syrup is prepared, although it is difficult to find on the market, given the difficulty with which the juice is extracted from the seeds, which makes it a very expensive product.
The pomegranate is also used in herbal medicine, especially the bark and peel of the balustrade.