Pomegranates originated in Persia and have been cultivated around the Mediterranean for centuries. Its genus name, Punica, is a constant reminder that the Phoenicians were the mediators in spreading its cultivation, partly for religious reasons. The plant is a glossy-leaved shrub and the fruit, between an orange and a grapefruit in size, has a thick reddish skin and many seeds. The edible parts are the brilliant red seed pulp and seeds.
Pomegranates in mythology. Pomegranates are a symbol of fertility because of their many seeds, yet of death because of the vivid blood red of the pulp. (See life-death-rebirth deity.) In mythology, Persephone was condemned to spend time in the Underworld every year because Hades tricked her into eating six pomegranate seeds while she was his prisoner. The pomegranate was a symbol of the Aegean Triple Goddess who evolved into Olympian Hera, who is represented offering the pomegranate. See also Orion (mythology)