Living in California I definitely take Pomegranates for granted. We can grow them here and they are pretty common. Every nursery around here carries them. I’ve even used them in planting plans on model homes for developers.
In the late spring and early summer the small, multi-branched tree becomes covered in these bright red flowers and buds. Contrasting the bright green foliage it not only makes a wonderful fruit tree but it also is quite ornamental. Late fall brings the fruit, which will split when they become overripe. The trick is to pick them before they split, though I haven’t quite figured out when that is. They will start to develop small fissures, so if you pick before those fissures open up it should be perfectly sweet and tart.
The best way to open up a pomegranate is to score the outside along the center and then pry it open. This reduces the mess because you avoid cutting the seeds, which can easily stain everything they touch, including our fingers. Eating pomegranates is definitely a labor of love. You have to carefully pry the seeds out from between the pithy flesh and remove the white membranes from around each chamber. I’ve heard of several different ways to do this, from doing it underwater to striking the outside of the fruit with a rubber mallet. I haven’t tried either of these techniques though.
So now you want to grow a pomegranate tree? Well, their main requirement is 150 hours of chill and heat during the summer. They grow well in the southern states and in California. They can also be grown in the Pacific Northwest, thought crops will be small due to the lack of heat. They do best in Zones 8 to 10 (though some varieties can be grown in Zone 7), though there are dwarf varieties such as Red Silk that can be planted in a pot and brought indoors during the winter.
If you’ve never tried a pomegranate (and no, pomegranate juice does not count as it tastes nothing like pomegranates), it is definitely something you should try to find. The taste is bright, tart and sweet.