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Kitchen Gardening

The Winter Pomegranate Harvest

Remember back in grade school when pomegranates would make our lunch sacks heavy?

  • It's pomegranate season. Photo by Joe Marinaro under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
  • Pomegranate blossoms are gorgeous. Photo by kretyen under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
  • Harvest pomegranates when they turn red - before they split.   Photo by garlandcannon under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

Remember back in grade school when pomegranates would make our lunch sacks heavy? Remember digging in to the flesh and pulling off the ruby-colored seeds? The bright red seeds slid into our moths and we’d suck away the juice on our fingers. Remember sharing it with a friend (sometimes)? Yes, there are seedless varieties; but why? Pomegranate seeds are the point.

Because pomegranates (Punica granatum) thrive on hot summers with short bursts of winter frost in the winter, it comes as no surprise that these handsome trees make themselves right at home here in the San Francisco Bay Area. There are some areas of California that aren’t as welcoming to pomegranates as the bay, so we consider ourselves lucky.

If the fruit doesn’t attract you, the tree’s decorative features must. Pomegranate flowers are anywhere from orange-red, pink, and even coral-striped – and stunning. New leaves come in bronze-colored and turn bright green when they’re mature. During the fall, the leaves change from bright green to yellow.

Pomegranates love to be situated in full sun and are heat-lovers. Like most plants, they appreciate good garden soil, but will survive just fine in soils less than perfect. Pomegranate pruning should be done in either the early spring or late summer. Careful pruning is important because the blossoms and fruits form at the tip of this year’s growth. Harvest the fruit a little on the early side (when they turn red) because they tend to split if they’re left on the branch until they’re fully ripe.

One of the most popular pomegranates grown in the bay area is ‘Nana’, which is a dwarf tree that grows to about 3′ tall. The fruits are a bit smaller than the standard size pomegranate trees, but Nana is perfect fore the small garden in suburban and urban areas.

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