From the Goddess of the Underworld to the weapons of war, pomegranates seem to pop up in some death-defying places.
But this fruit’s not all dark! In fact, it can be quite sweet, with some varieties doing their fair share to undo all these macabre associations.
The pomegranate has been around a long time, first sprouting up in the area around Northern India, Southern China and Eastern Iran around 5000 B.C.
And while in many ancient cultures – including China, Egypt and India – the fruit has been tightly associated with fertility, prosperity and abundance, in nearly as many, the fruit has come to symbolize the darker side.
Or, more specifically, death.
Most famously, the fruits were tied into the story of the Greek goddess Persephone, who was made to stay in the Underworld beside her husband Hades for the same number of months every year as the number of pomegranate seeds she ate.
(Her mother, Demeter, Goddess of the Harvest, would mourn the months of her daughter’s absence, which is what the Greeks said brought on the winter.)
Back on this earthly plain, the fruit has also been associated with some pretty destructive history. The famous explosive you pull the pin out of before hurling at your enemies also took its name from the French word for pomegranate, grenade – though we think that’s due more to the objects’ similar sizes and shapes than the pomegranate’s deathly reputation.
All this, despite being one of the healthiest types of fruits out there! Pomegranates are jam-packed with vitamin C and other delicious nutrients that work wonders for everything from our hair and skin to our hearts.
So, on balance, we think it’s still worth loving these fantastic fruits.
Yet despite their strange history and uniquely delectable taste, pomegranates are still pretty rare in some parts of the world.
Americans are said to eat, on average, less than one pomegranate a year! Though, far and away, the most popular type of pomegranate there is the Wonderful cultivar.
This varietal, which accounts for up to 95% of pomegranates sold in the U.S., invokes the classic pomegranate look, feel and taste, with a hard, red outside and an inside bursting with bright ruby seeds (technically called arils) that bear a delicious sweet-tart flavor.
But Wonderfuls aren’t the only player in the game.
In fact, some true pomegranate connoisseurs argue that there are several varietals out there that are even more amazing. (What, did you think we were going to say “wonderful”?)
Some other wonderful (okay, you got us this time) varieties of pomegranate include:
Named for elixir that invokes the dreamy kind of desire this fruit has sometimes embodied in folklore, there is certainly a lot to love about this cultivar.
We mean literally. Ambrosia pomegranates are big – up to three times bigger than the Wonderful! – and come in a beautiful pale pink color, sporting seeds that are just as ruby red as its more famous cousin, but a bit more tart.
Don’t let the name fool you – this Turkmenistan-based version of the fruit isn’t named after the desert, but rather the Turkmen word for dessert – and believe us, that extra ‘s’ makes all the difference.
Indeed, this varietal is rightly named after the famously yummy meal, with a unique flavor profile that combines the classic sweet-tart of pomegranate with a touch of citrus. It’s even said to taste almost like orange juice as the fruit matures!
Besides being the most fun type of pomegranate to pronounce, this cultivar has one of the most interesting backstories.
The specialty strand was first imported to the U.S. from Turkmenistan, by renowned pomegranate breeder Dr. Gregory Levin – and pomegranate aficionados have been grateful ever since. The Parifanka is widely considered to be one of the top types of pomegranates, thanks to its larger-than-normal arils that yield plenty of juice and out of this world taste that perfectly balances sweet and tart.
Another appropriately named varietal, this type of pomegranate comes wrapped in a beautiful pink color, and also sports a clutch of pretty light pink arils.
The seeds are practically all juice (hence the “satin”), and a tasty variety at that, coming in a flavor reminiscent of fruit punch. Even better? The light pink color of the juice is far less likely to stain than the Pink Satin’s darker red relatives.
We think we see a naming convention going on here…
This type of pomegranate is particularly unique, thanks to its particularly deep red color (that some say resembles crushed velvet), and it’s particularly sharp bite, thanks to a higher amount of acid in the fruit.
Still the Sharp Velvet’s arils are anything but inedible – in fact, many say they’re among the best-tasting types of pomegranates.
Rounding out with another aptly-named varietal, this type of pomegranate is one of the sweetest around.
The Sweet Pomegranate isn’t only as tasty as its namesake, it’s particularly juicy – and with a greenish-pink outside and bright pink seeds, it’s also one of the prettiest types of pomegranates out there.
Taste and style? Now that’s really a fruit to die for!