Michael Ellis: Pomegranates

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Long considered a fruit with many health benefits, pomegranates also have a place in ancient mythology. Michael Ellis has this Perspective.

Two of the most important females in my life liked and like pomegranates. My mom loved them and they were hard to find in East Tennessee in the 60s. And my three-year-old granddaughter is a pomegranate fool. As the days grow shorter pomegranates appear in the market.

They are such exotic fruits, and look like nothing else. I love picking apart the white mesh and discovering a bright red ball of lusciousness. They are messy, tart and sweet. Originally found from Iran to northern India, they have been grown for millennia in the Middle East. Some scholars believe they were the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden.

Not surprisingly due of the color of the juicy seeds many cultures associate pomegranates with the feminine. In ancient Rome newlywed women wore crowns woven from the leaves and the juice was said to cure infertility. The ancient belief in the health benefits are proving true. Pomegranates might help with heart disease, and even diabetes.

Those of you of a certain age might remember Edith Hamilton‘s classical Mythology book. Those myths were mind blowing for me and so much better stories than the ones I was hearing at the First Methodist Church.

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Hades, the god of the underworld, wanted a wife. He kidnaps the goddess Demeter’s only child, Persephone. Demeter and Dionysius are two of the Gods quite appealing to us mere mortals. Demeter is the goddess of harvest and nature and Dionysius of course the god of wine and revelry. What’s not to love about those two?

After her daughter goes missing Demeter wanders the earth grieving. And the earth becomes cold and barren. Finally, after hearing the laments of starving people, Zeus sends an emissary down to straighten everything out. Hades agrees to let Persephone return to her mother but slyly makes her eat a magic pomegranate seed. This trickery necessitates that Persephone has to return to live with Hades for three months. And when this happens her mother mourns and winter once again besets the earth.

But without winter, how can we really appreciate the spring?

This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.

Michael Ellis is a naturalist. He lives in Santa Rosa.