The Joy of My Pomegranate Tree By: Grenetta Bledsoe, Parker County Master Gardener My husband and I planted our second pomegranate tree in the spring of 2012, our first pomegranate tree died the year before. A pomegranate tree can be classified as a large rounded woody shrub or a small tree. At the present, our pomegranate is a woody shrub. It is planted in an area that receives about 5 hours of sun in the late afternoon…this is not enough sun as it is recommended to have a minimum of 6-8 hours of sunlight. I’d probably have more fruit if it had more sun. Our rather young tree is not very big, about 3 feet tall, but it’s only a year old. In the fall of 2012, we picked 2 large bright red pomegranates. The fruit was wonderful…just like its variety name ‘Wonderful’ Punica granatum. Our two fabulous pomegranates had a tart flavor yet they were sweet and juicy. I used my pomegranate seeds in a Quinoa Salad, the recipe at the end of this article. I’ve learned that some people don’t know how to eat or prepare pomegranates. First, one eats the whole pomegranate seeds. Yes, they are crunchy, but that’s just added fiber. I love the crunchiness. I stocked up on pomegranates during the fall and early winter as our two pomegranates didn’t last very long. I prepared the seeds and put them in Ziploc plastic bags with a little pomegranate juice, spreading them so they laid flat; freezing them in the freezer. To me it makes sense since pomegranates are only seasonable during the fall and winter. Now, I have plenty to get me through the off season since I froze several bags. I think some people avoid pomegranates because they don’t know how to eat them or what to do with them. Eating a pomegranate can be messy. The juice can stain your clothes and even your countertops. Here is how one prepares a pomegranate for eating: First, put some paper towels down on a counter and put on a full apron to cover your clothes…just in case the juice squirts on you. The pomegranate is juicy so you will not want the juice to squirt on you when cutting as the stain might not come out of your clothing. Second, get a sharp knife, and cut the pomegranate into down the middle or you can cut the end or crown off, I personally prefer cutting down the middle. Third, put the pomegranate face down in a bowl of cold water, and let it soak for about 5 to 10 minutes. Next, UNDERWATER in the bowl, remove rind and the white membranes gently by breaking apart and pulling the skin away from the little pods. Pull off a little section at a time and gently nudge the seed pods from the white membrane. Pry them out UNDERWATER. The seeds will sink and the white membrane floats. Scoop the floating membrane out by using a slotted spoon or just pick it out using your fingers. Discard the white membrane, and put the seeds in a container and refrigerate or freeze. I find that I enjoy eating pomegranate seeds in salads, couscous, quinoa, and smoothies. Common Name: ‘Wonderful’ Pomegranate Botanical Name: Punica granatum ‘Wonderful’ Plant Type: Deciduous perennial woody shrub or tree Light Requirements: Full Sun Water Requirements: Pomegranates require deep, consistent watering to bloom and bear their fruit. They should be given about 2 inches of water per week. Water pomegranate shrubs/trees thoroughly after initial planting and allow the soil to dry out between watering. Pomegranate shrubs/trees grow well in dry, semi-arid conditions with lots of sun and summer heat. Water deeply but infrequently to establish a deep and extensive root structure, which the tree can draw from to sustain it through dry spells. Mature Size: 8-10 ft. H x 8-10 ft W Bloom Time: Spring Bloom Color: Deep red or scarlet Propagation Method: Cuttings is preferred over seed propagation as seeds do not come true. Suckers can be used to develop new plants. Native Texas Plant: No Wildlife Value: Hummingbirds Care: The more sun and heat pomegranate shrubs/trees are exposed to, the more likely they are to produce edible fruit. The more shade they grow in, the smaller and more bitter the fruit will be, if they ever produce fruit at all. Pomegranates are hardy, but can only survive 15-degrees during winter. They won’t flower or grow in areas that get colder. Water when the top 6-inches of soil is dry, generally about once a week during the growing season. Water until the soil is wet down to a depth of about three feet. Make sure soil does not dry out immediately prior to harvest in late summer and early autumn. Fertilize one pomegranate shrub/tree with between ½ and 1 lb. of a nitrogen-based fertilizer for the first couple of years in spring. An annual application of organic compost before onset of flowers would be more than enough for an established shrub/tree. Pruning is essential to make the shrub/tree bushier and to give it a strong structure, as the branches are spiny. Prune pomegranate shrubs/trees sparingly during winter months. Find the new growth on the outer edge of the tree. This growth appears on mature branches that are active fruit bearers. Lightly cut back tips of the new growth to encourage new growth. Examine inner branches to find branches that are crossing and rubbing on each other. Remove these branches. Thin out some of the old growth from the center of the shrub/tree also to encourage larger pomegranates. Watch for suckers that grow around base of the shrub/tree. A sucker is a shoot that grows around the center trunk of the shrub/tree. Prune the tops off to maintain a shorter more manageable shrub/tree for harvesting fruit. Fruits are borne on the tips of new growth. Once the shrub/tree starts to bear fruit, only remove dead, diseased and entangled branches. Harvest pomegranates during the months of late August or first of September. Fruit that completely ripens on the shrub/tree often splits open. Comments: Pomegranates are most often grown as a shrub, but if you prefer a tree, they’re simple enough to prune into a desired shape. Many people grow pomegranates not for fruit, but simply for its ornamental appeal. The juice of the pomegranate becomes base for sauces and flavorings in drinks, savory dishes and sweets, while the whole seeds are a simple delight eaten fresh or used as a colorful garnish. The fruit is about the size of an orange or softball. Larger fruits promise more juice. Pomegranates are not a fruit that will ripen once picked so once harvested; they will not continue to develop sugar The general planting space recommended for a pomegranate tree is 20X20 feet. Proper soil drainage is important. Pomegranates can grow for more than 100 years with the right care, but there is a reduction in their fruit bearing capacity; quantity and quality wise after about 20 years. They should get full sun and have proper drainage to thrive. Flowers are mostly found in a cluster. Shrubs/trees may not flower if they don’t get enough sunlight. For a pomegranate to bear fruit, the blossoms must receive pollen during their bloom. Although pomegranates are selffertile, some sources state that they will bear more fruit with a secondary pollinator. So, consider planting at least two pomegranates to increase fruit harvest. I intend to purchase another one this spring. Some authorities state that pomegranates may begin to bloom and bear fruit after a year, but are more likely to bear fruit after two-three years. Pomegranates are available fresh from September-January. Each pomegranate yields ¾ cup seeds and ½ cup of juice. When selecting pomegranates, look for thin, tough, unbroken skin, a deep red color, heavy for its size and a crown that is free of mold. Pomegranates stay fresh for about two weeks when stored in a cool, dry place that is out of direct sunlight. In the refrigerator, they can be safely stored for up to two months. It is not recommended to freeze the whole fruit, but seeds can be frozen for up to a year. Fresh juice should be refrigerated and used within two-three days. Pomegranate fruit is popular for its health benefits. The juice is chocked full of vitamins, antioxidants and other health advantages. The crimson fruit around each seed has a unique tart-sweet flavor and is popular eaten whole or used as a juice or syrup. Quinoa Salad By: Grenetta Bledsoe 1 Pkg of Roland All Natural, Gluten Free Quinoa ‘Garden Vegetable’ (Found at Wal-Mart, grocery stores, etc. I use the packaged quinoa since it has added spices and cooks quickly.) 2 Tablespoons of butter or olive oil ¼ cup of red onion, chopped 2 carrots, sliced ½ cup celery, sliced ½ cup of red pepper, orange pepper, or yellow bell pepper, chopped 1 clove of garlic, minced ¼ to ½ cup Crystallized ginger, cup up in small chunks ¼ cup Balsamic vinegar (I prefer Mia’s Kitchen Balsamic Vinegar found at Central Market) ¼ cup of pomegranate juice Salt and pepper to taste 1 can of mandarin oranges, drained Pomegranate seeds Nuts (cashew, almond, walnut, pecan, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, etc.) DIRECTIONS: Cook quinoa according to package directions. Meanwhile, using a skillet, melt butter and sauté onion, carrots, celery, bell pepper and minced garlic. Next, add crystallized ginger. Stir until mixed. Add balsamic vinegar and pomegranate juice. Sprinkle salt & pepper to taste. Stir to mix thoroughly. Right before serving, remove from heat and stir in mandarin oranges. Add mixture to quinoa. Stir to mix together. Top by sprinkling with pomegranate seeds and nuts of your choice (We prefer cashews.). I like to serve grilled chicken breast and a small tossed salad with this and it makes a meal.
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