Pomegranate and Its Secrets in Persian Culture
The pomegranate has been a significant metaphor in different cultures including Persian lore, throughout the history. Iran and Iranian tradition have common grounds with other traditions about this unique fruit. To illustrate, one can observe how the pomegranate has remained prevalent in Armenian cultural memory, Greek and Japanese mythology, Chinese porcelains, Turkish textiles, Spanish chests and many others as the symbol of fertility, birth or the gift of God.
In addition to them, in Persian mythology it also used to symbolize the pomegranate’s authority over death. Pomegranate is originated in Iran while it used to be a kind of royal fruit in ancient Greece. Its existence dates back to 4000 years ago when pomegranate was a luxurious souvenir of Iran. The pomegranate was known as a fruit from Paradise (named four times in Quran) and therefor planted around the environment of many worship locations and religious schools. That is why some Iranian Muslims believe that at least one of its gem-like seeds has come from Paradise and therefore should not let any seed fall on the ground. Since the pomegranate used to be held dear to Iranians, the Immortals (Persian warriors during Achaemenid Empire) had pomegranate-shaped spears. Furthermore, pomegranate has been penetrated into Persian art including poetry of Rudaki and Nezami, miniature paintings, to show love scenes accompanied by many Persian texts, and plaster works of Sassanid era like Ctesiphon Palace and Islamic motifs of Iranian mosques. Hafez who is a great Persian poet kept the erotic connotation of the pomegranate in his poetry and this became a recurrent motif, indicating earthly pleasure throughout the Qajar dynasty.
Contrary to the difficult word “pomegranate”, its Persian name is simply “Annar”انار. The simplicity of “Anaar” shows how often it must have been used in everyday lives of Persians in the past.
The nutritious aspects of pomegranate which are antioxidants and blood purifier among others, are the reasons for the fact that pomegranate is usually mentioned in health talks in all around the world. Furthermore, it decreases heart disease, cancer (especially breast and prostate cancers) while it controls blood cholesterol and Haemopoiesis.
But how is pomegranate in the modern day Iran?
Pomegranate has two types: the sweet type which has white skin and the sour or sour-sweet type which has red skin, therefore it can attract almost anybody due to the variety of tastes. It is even a favorite among children since they “ab-lambo” the pomegranate, which means smashing into juice. When one cannot be bothered with the trouble of pealing the fruit, Ab-Lamboo is the solution, which means smashing Annar smoothly with fingers, then making a small whole in the skin and sucking out the juice (very popular method for smaller pomegranate). Eating the pomegranate raw is also very popular in the season, but these are small parts of what makes pomegranate special and essential to Iranian lifestyle.
How to Peal the Pomegranate?
Pomegranate has become available in many countries nowadays, yet the proper way of pealing this fruit and using it can be a bit confusing. Iranians can usually peal it and take all the seeds out without a drop of juice going to waste. Look at the images below so that you can learn how to do so. The point is, after you take off the head, you should run down the knife only through the white separation layers of the fruit and then pull it apart.
Back to pomegranate, all around the world there are refreshment bars serving juice but the evolution in Iran is that we have refreshment bars that only serve pomegranate beverages or its other snacks-like productions; because pomegranate juice is good for you as well as tasty during autumn and winter. Pomegranate juice, ice cream, frappé, Faloudeh, which have become widely popular and can be found in busy areas. The secret of this popularity is decorating the juice or ice-cream with Alucheh and Lavashak. So, once you orders a pomegranate juice, you can choose to have Lavashak, Alucheh, dried pomegranate seeds (Nardooneh), frozen pomegranate seeds or a combination of all on the beverage. The best part is that there is a variety of sour to sweet Alucheh and Lavashak available, which you can taste first and then choose.
How to find out the quality of Annar?
Pomegranate Types and Tastes:
Unbelievably, Iran has over 740 kinds of pomegranate some of which are quite well-known. They include Shahsavar, Meykhosh, Saveh, Malas Isfahan and some more. In Iran, Saveh (Markazi Province), Neyriz (Fars Province) and Ferdows (South Khorasan Province) are the biggest producers of pomegranate, respectively. Note that they differ in their taste, size and color. As an instance, Saveh includes white seeds and is sweet, thin-skinned and long-lasting, while Malas Isfahan is famous for having big red seeds and sour taste; however, the sweet types with white seeds are more nourishing. It is said that Miankaleh Peninsula (South-eastern part of the Caspian Sea) has been considered as the vastest organic and wild pomegranate forest in the world, extended about more than 100 hectares.
As Iran is the largest exporter and the second largest country for pomegranate production, this fruit has also had industrial use in Iran; traditionally, the thick layer of the red pomegranate skin was used as color sources for coloring Persian carpet wool and silk, hair color, fabric, etc.
In the season of pomegranate which is autumn, the juice is extracted and boiled until it becomes thick and turns to a dark brown sauce. This juice is the main ingredient in one of the most popular Iranian meals, it is called “Fesenjan stew” which eaten with white rice. Beside pomegranate sauce, it has chicken, walnut and spices. Cooking good fesenjan shows you’re a good cook, its some how a tricky food. Since the sauce is also available in sweet or sour tastes, the fesenjan stew varies according to household taste. Since Persian pomegranate has big fans in Iran, specifically interesting and eye-catching for the Japanese and south Korean tourists, it seems essential to diagnose the quality type from the poor one. If you are the type who is interested in sour taste, you either would try to have pomegranate products in Iran, or to buy some Annar as souvenir. In the first case, make sure to taste this pomegranate combination while in Iran. You will be surprised to see the popular stores. In the second case, please pay attention while buying pomegranate: The skin must be clear, thin and without crack. All in all, it can be said the pomegranate types and products is the most different snack you might find in Iran.
In the season of pomegranate which is autumn, the juice is extracted and boiled until it becomes thick and turns to a dark brown sauce. This juice (in Persian: Roob-e-Annar) is the main ingredient in one of the most popular Iranian meals, which is called “Fesenjan stew” eaten with white rice. Beside pomegranate sauce, it has chicken, walnut and spices. Cooking good Fesenjan shows you’re a good cook, as it is somehow a tricky food. Since the sauce is also available in sweet or sour tastes, the Fesenjan stew varies according to household taste. The sauce is also applicable in other delicious Persian meals including a specific kinds of chicken, known as “Akbar Joojah”, mostly cooked in the Northern parts of Iran across the Caspian Sea. The juice can be added as flavor to different kinds of meals such as Annarbich, Kebab Torsh and Ash-e-Annar (a kind of soup with the pomegranate seeds).
Pomegranate is also an inevitable component in the celebration of “Yalda Night”, the longest and the darkest night of the year. On the calendar, the night of December 20th/21st, the night of the northern hemisphere’s winter solstice. Yalda is usually celebrated by family gatherings. Reading Hafez’s poems which we believe tell our fortunes out load is a fun tradition and watermelon and pomegranate are the servings on Yalda night, as well. The best and biggest pomegranates are usually preserved for this night and are only brought to the market a few days earlier. Iranians granulate the pomegranate and consume it with salt and Golpar (a famous Persian spice) or mint if it is sour.
Before going on with the pomegranate popularity in Iran you need to know that in Iran there is an extreme popularity of sour products. Worldwide snacks, nowadays, are either sugar-based or salty products, but in traditional lifestyle of Iranians, there used to be a variety of sour snacks that still continue to be popular. “Lavashak” and “Alucheh” are among these sour products that were made domestically and consumed as snacks. Basically they are sour fruits boiled and thickened with spices, which are left to dry or half dry and then preserved. They are very tasty and addictive with their mouth-watering taste. Pomegranate, cherry, apricot, plum and mixed fruit are popular tastes in making Lavashak or Alucheh. You can find them in supermarkets abundantly, nowadays.
Pomegranate is also a inevitable component in the celebration of “Yalda”, the longest and darkest night of the year. In calendar the night of December 20/21 th, the night of the northern hemisphere’s winter solstice. Yalda is usually celebrated by family gatherings. Reading Hafez’s poems which we believe tell our fortunes out load is a fun tradition, watermelon and pomegranate are the servings on Yalda night. The best and biggest pomegranates are usually preserved for this night and are only brought to the market a few days earlier.
The pomegranate festival is a kind of thanksgiving festival taking place every year, since2009, late September or in the middle October, depending on the climate change. Iranians hold this festival in almost every city where pomegranate grows. They thank God for their fresh product while the festival is accompanied by picking up pomegranates, local music and dance, sometimes. It is quite well-known Western-Azerbaijan, Arasbaran region where musicians play Ashik music.
Iran Traveling Center is proud of managing a variety of culinary tours where the interested travelers join Iranian families to know more about Persian cuisine and get familiar with Iranian unique organic ingredients, spices and tastes.
Before going on with the pomegranate popularity in Iran you need to know that in Iran there is this extreme popularity of sour products . World wide snacks nowadays are usually sugar based or salty products, but in traditional life style of Iran, there was a variety of sour snacks also, that still continue to be popular. “Lavashak” and “aluche” are among these sour products that were made domestically and consumed as snacks. Basically they are sour fruits boiled and thickened with spices, which are left to dry or half dry and than preserved. They are very tasty and addictive with their mouth watering tastes. Pomegranate, cherry, apricot, plum and mixed fruit are popular tastes. They are sold in supermarkets nowadays.