Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Overload of pomegranates

At this time of year the pomegranates in Southern Italy are ripening, and each time it is a small miracle to see the frail, undernourished tree struggling to uphold its branches despite the abundance of heavyweight fruits.

You can embrace the trunk of our melagrane with two hands, the major branches resemble sticks and the top reaches just 3 metres above the ground. Still, the tree blossoms with big, red flowers and bright green leaves every spring. In the summer the fruit looks like the crowned ball used in illustrations on Granada pottery. And in October the red and later brown leathery skin breaks open to reveal a wealth of red seeds. No wonder the pomegranate has been seen as a symbol of fertility, riches and good luck.

Therefore some pugliesi mix pomegrate seeds with whole wheat grains for abundance, almonds and walnuts for white skeletal bones, green grapes for health and chocolate, cacao or cinnamon and fig or grape juice for good measure to produce La Colva. A fruit salad enjoyed on Ognissanti and il giorno dedicato alla commemorazione dei defunti, when the family returns from the cemetery, where they have spend the day cleaning and decorating the graves of deceased family and friends.

Apart from that the pomegranates are mainly used for decorative purposes in salads and risotto, which may explain the curiosity of my next door neighbour, when I was bringing a perfect specimen in from the garden.

- I see you have been plucking melagrane, but what do you use it for? she said.

I tend to ask myself the same question given the fact that there are still buckets full of pomegranates on the tree. If I leave them long enough perhaps they will turn into fragile, marriageable girls who are white as ricotta and red as blood, as described in the fairytale called L’amore delle tre melagrane by Italo Calvino.

Other exotic fruits
Indian figs from Mexico

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