ASK THE HORT AGENT
Question Are pomegranates worth the horticultural effort?Answer Any fruit labeled “the fruit of paradise” should be worth an attempt. Pomegranates (Punica granatum) are loaded with antioxidants. Their contributions to human health are well documented. The antioxidants in pomegranates have beneficial effects on heart disease, blood pressure and arthritis. http://seniorjournal.com/NEWS/Nutrition-Vitamins/5-09-29PomegranateHot.htm Very promising research has been generated concerning the leading cancer killer of men - prostate cancer. http://www.prostate-cancer.org/education/selfempower/Pomegranates_Prostate_Health_Dreher.html The alkaloids in pomegranates even have the ability to kill tapeworms.
While the reward is great, there will be effort involved. Pomegranates are relatively happy with our hot and cold seasons. On the other hand, they do not like our humidity (who does?). Their opposition to humidity places them in the “marginal” category with respect to fruit trees. Marginal fruit trees (shrubs or vines) are often weakened by environmental stresses, then knocked out by insects and/or diseases. Instead of being attacked by pests, pomegranates tend to drop their fruit before they ripen.
The best defense against fruit drop is variety selection. The most researched and planted variety is ‘Wonderful’. This selection should be cold hardy as far north as Washington, DC. Only an angel could be better than wonderful. ‘Angel Red’ is a new variety that is supposed to be earlier, juicier, hardier and a heavier producer. On top of all that, the seeds are soft and edible.
The total number of fruit produced per year may still be somewhat low (probably less than 20 per plant). One Florida variety may have conquered the humidity. ‘Christina’ is reported to have bumper crops each year.
Combining fruiting and ornamental perspectives, the variety ‘Eight Ball’ should be cold hardy while sporting large nearly black fruit. Tony Avent (the Indiana Jones of the plant world) says he can vouch for its appearance, but not its taste.
Pomegranates are dense, bushy shrubs 6 to 12 feet tall with thorny, slender branches that may be trained into small trees. They tolerate many soil types and conditions - dry or some flooding. They grow best on deep, fairly heavy, moist soil with a pH between 5.5 and 7.0. Proper watering is important. Adequate soil moisture will control fruit splitting and reduce fruit drop. With plenty of sunlight, pomegranates may begin to bear 1 year after planting, but 2 1/2 to 3 years is more common.
For more info on pomegranates, visit http://www.ext.vt.edu/departments/envirohort/factsheets3/fruithome/NOV90PR3.HTML If you do not have internet access, then call 893-7530 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
While you’re waiting for those tapeworms to croak, have a cool drink. Loosen and break apart the seeds of 6 ripe pomegranates. Use a lever-style citrus juicer to extract the juice. Sweeten lightly with honey or sugar, and pour over shaved ice for a healthy, refreshing drink.
Gary L. Pierce
Horticulture Extension Agent