Calabria and the pomegranate, the ancient fruit of well-being


The pomegranate, whose name derives from the Latin malum (apple) and granatum (with seeds), is very common in Calabria and throughout the Mediterranean where it was probably introduced by the Phoenicians, as demonstrated by the other name of the pomegranate which was malum punicum (Punic apple, therefore coming from northern Africa).


It was known by the Egyptians and the Phoenicians, in India and Africa it was used to defeat sterility as well as in ancient Greece and Magna Graecia, where it was also used as an anti-inflammatory, anti-diarrheal and vermifuge and was consumed by women or was offered to the Mother Goddess in rites of the Eleusinian mysteries. As a symbol of fertility and abundance it was commonly  planted in front of the houses and local population ate its fruits because it brought luck and abundance, a tradition still in use in Calabria and in the South.

Pomegranates in Alcinoo’s Garden?

The Greek and Roman brides wore crowns with pomegranate flowers and it was tradition, still remained today in some Mediterranean countries, that the girls on the wedding day break a pomegranate and count the seeds that jump out, which represent the children they will have.

The pomegranate is sacred in all religions: for the Jews because it contains 613 seeds, which are the number of prescriptions of the Torah, for Muslims because it is the tree of paradise, for Christians, due to the ruby red color of the seeds, which represents the martyrdom of Christ and therefore the life that is reborn...


Already the good Homer, long before Carducci with his famous poem about this tree, spoke of the pomegranate in the seventh book of the Odyssey, when Ulysses in the Land of the Phaeceans (which was Calabria and precisely the area of Tiriolo, according to the historian Armin Wolf) describes the gardens that surround us the palace of King Alcinoo: «Therein grow trees, tall and luxuriant, pears and pomegranates and apple-trees with their bright fruit, and sweet figs, and luxuriant olives.”

The pomegranate in Calabria is also inextricably linked to the myth of Persephone (always depicted with a pomegranate in the hand), daughter of Demeter, goddess of fertility and agriculture, whose cult was widespread in Calabria magnogreca. Several temples were dedicated to her and to her mother Demeter and in their honor the rituals of the Eleusinian Mysteries were practiced.

Legend has it that Persephone, taken from her mother Demeter by Hades, was taken to the underworld, where by eating six pomegranate seeds she became a creature of that kingdom. From that moment the earth desertified itself, desperate Demeter sought her daughter and when he found her, he demanded from Hades that he return to his world, even if only for a short time. Since then Persefone lived six months in the underworld and six months on earth and nature flourished again with the seasons.


Its fruit, called “granatu” in dialect, has been known since ancient times for its therapeutic properties: powerful antioxidant, antibacterial, astringent and gastroprotective, it is rich in ellagic acid, a powerful antioxidant, and other polyphenols, flavonoids, phytoestrogens, vitamin C and mineral salts such as magnesium, sulfur, potassium, copper, phosphorus and iron.

Seeds of Melograno (Pomegranate)

Pomegranate lowers blood pressure, protects from sunlight, strengthens bones, helps fight free radicals, protects cells by preventing their damage and regenerating them, protects kidneys and liver from harmful toxins.

U granatu” for its beauty, with its flowers and its autumn fruits full of red seeds similar to precious stones, and for its many medicinal properties, has always been considered a sacred symbol of life and fertility.


Its shelled seeds and seasoned with lemon juice are an excellent and healthy side dish and go perfectly with desserts, savory dishes with dried fruit, cabbage and cereals, salads and seasonal fruit salads.

Pomegranate juice is also a precious concentrate of well-being. To extract it there is nothing simpler, it is enough to cut the peel of the fruit (more or less as one does with the oranges), breaking it in half and squeezing it with a normal juicer.

Sorb of Agnana (RC): ancient fruit of Calabria


Sorb of Agnana is the fruit of a plant, present since ancient times in Mediterranean Europe, from Spain to Greece, and also in the Asian part of the eastern Mediterranean, in the Anatolian peninsula, present-day Turkey, but, perhaps, it is native to northern Europe.

A juicy pear-shaped fruit


Its fruits, small, roundish or pear-shaped, are consumed after a short maturation.  From the last decade of October to November, is the most suitable period to collect from the rowan its wonderful fruits. Further, the most beautiful, thickest and possibly tastiest sorbs are in the above mentioned village, Agnana, near Reggio Calabria. Herein this fruit is known only to people who have a certain age…

However, at least 50% of the people even in Calabria not only have never tasted it, but they have never seen it either, so that it is often mistaken for a small apple; further, many  people naturally do not know the times of his maturation or even the way of eating it.

Brown after maturation

In fact, when the fruits are collect from the plant starting from the end of October, they are placed in a basket, made up of strips of intertwined canes, possibly together with straw, and when they became soft and changed in color,  rosé color or deep red or brown, it is the right time to consume them; then they can be brought closer to the lips and sucked, making with the fingers a slight pressure on the fruits. In fact, the peels cannot be eaten, as they are strongly astringent; from them comes out a sweet, creamy, slightly and pleasantly acidic content.

Change of colors during maturation

Of course today the rowanberries are eaten in the same way, but they are no longer placed in the baskets of intertwined canes, but rather when they happen to be found by those who know them, they are kept in normal containers.

In fact, this fruit has become very rare, present in some abandoned field, and is little known, so that when someone not informed about the characteristics of the fruit, by looking at a plant, catches just some small fruits and tries to bite them, he receives an unpleasant surprise, savoring something abominable in the mouth and that needs to be spit out.


The plant grows quickly in the first years of life, then very slowly and to reach half a meter in diameter it takes more than a hundred years; fortunately, it grows spontaneously in the Mediterranean woods.

A magnificent old tree

Its tree is compact, very heavy and resistant and has a very regular texture, so it is regularly used to make sculptures, especially saints, but also threaded logs for wine presses. It is not uncommon to find some monumental plant with beautiful fruits,  cream-colored and suffused with rosé colors, especially in Agnana, slightly piriform.

Other small plants can be also found between Gioiosa Marina and Gioiosa Jonica, in the property that in the past belonged to the Macrì Barons, which produce fruits of considerable size, cream-colored, but also in Condoianni and in Melia of San Roberto, where can be discovered plants old of centuries…

Red fruits after maturation