Pomegranate

There is something about an overcast sky and the silence it brings. Sitting by the open window with winter looking back at me, summer seems a lifetime away. The seasons have never been as defined as now. It feels like the seasons are more distinguishable in Valencia than in Cape Town and definitely more so than in Hermosillo, where it seemed to be summer all year round.

This summer we made the decision to take it easy and do short road trips to different towns and cities within Spain. Our longest stay was in Granada. This city really took hold of me. It is everything I have always imagined Spain to be when I was younger. Being August, the summer spirits were high (in certain plazas some spirits were way higher than others). There were people from all walks of life, humans who had been travelling for so long they don’t know how to stop, flamenco dancers putting on shows in the street for all to see and appreciate, the food delicious and plentiful and the aroma, the entangled fragrances of rose, lemon blossom, cardamom and cinnamon embraced the old city. I like to think that every city holds its own fragrance and Granada’s is that of rose petals and cardamom.

Corridors overlooking the gardens of Generalife in La Alhambra.
Corridors overlooking the gardens of Generalife in La Alhambra.

In this part of Spain, down south, the tradition is held that when you order a glass of wine you receive a tapas free of charge. Tapas can be anything from a baguette with tomato and garlic sprinkled with olive oil, Spanish omelette with potatoes to Iberico ham, cheese or smoked chorizo. Fortunately for us, I am an avid wine drinker so we always had tapas at our table for when we were feeling peckish.

Even though this city has so much to offer it’s probably most famous for La Alhambra. I tried to buy entry tickets online but it was sold out three months in advance, so a word of caution, book way in advance. We did manage to buy tickets for a guided tour though. So that Thursday we woke up at 7 am and walked to La Alhambra to be on time for our 8:30 appointment with the tour guide. The walk up the hill was beautiful and the gardens surrounding the palace is so enchanting even Carissa (who is such a realist) speculated whether faeries may be hidden inside the ‘forest’. She was such a brave girl marching the three kilometers with so much determination. Sebaea opted for Wil’s shoulders.

Pomegranate tree in the gardens surrounding La Alhambra
One of many pomegranate trees in the gardens surrounding La Alhambra.

Inside La Alhambra the architecture, gardens and general layout is remarkable. I can’t recall doing a guided tour of any sorts before then, but I must say in this instance it was really insightful. Due to it being enormous, having someone guide as through all the buildings and gardens enhanced our appreciation of what we were experiencing.

Generalife gardens in La Alhambra
Generalife gardens in La Alhambra.

One of the other highlights was the train ride. You can jump on this little train that will take you through the city, stopping at all the tourist sites as well as the Medieval Moorish district, Albaicin. Albaicin was declared a world heritage site in 1984 and walking through the narrow, uneven cobblestone streets one can clearly understand why.

A window in La Alhambra overlooking Albaicin.
A window in La Alhambra overlooking Albaicin.

We made very good use of this little train. The girls loved it, we stopped at every point possible had something to drink and hopped on to be safely transported to our next stop. In the words of my husband “this is probably the closest we will ever get to doing a pub crawl ever again”. Yes, it was delightful!

The Courtyard of the Lions is the main courtyard of La Alhambra
The Courtyard of the Lions. The main courtyard of La Alhambra.

Apart from taking a step back in time when walking through this urban district, Albaicin also has many restaurants with roof terraces from where you can view La Alhambra. We ended up at El Huerto de Juan Ranas, which we learnt has a rooftop garden from where they harvest their vegetables to prepare their food. We thought this to be quite brave and innovative and decided to stay and have lunch.  The day there was by far the most memorable. I had that I-could-sit-here-all-day-in-admiration feeling. The view of La Alhambra is absolutely exquisite.

The view from La Alhambra from a rooftop in Albaicin. The Red Palace it all its majesty.
The view of La Alhambra from a rooftop in Albaicin. The Red Palace in all its majesty.

“Give alms, woman, because there is no grief in life so hard as being blind in Granada”                                                                                                                                            ~ Francisco A. de Icaza

The Ladies Tower, Torre de las Damas, is the most important building of those that belonged to the magnates who lived around La Alhambra
The Ladies Tower, Torre de las Damas, is the most important building of those that belonged to the magnates who lived around La Alhambra.

Granada is Spanish for Pomegranate and although I am unclear if the city Granada is directly named after the fruit, it could very well be. There are many references to the fruit in and around the city and in La Alhambra. It is said that the pomegranate originated in Turkmenistan from where it migrated along the Moors’ ancient trading routes via Turkey, Syria, Israel, Egypt (there are pomegranate hieroglyphics in temples) Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and then to Spain from where it was distributed to the new world.

One of many depictions of pomegranates in and around Granada.
One of many depictions of pomegranates in and around Granada.

When talking pomegranates two names should be mentioned, Gregory Moiseyevich Levin and A.D. Strebkova, a female Russian scientist who bred new varieties from the selected ones Levin collected, in Goychay in Azerbaijan.

There is a pomegranate species that is only found on the island of Socotra which is just off the coast of Yemen that is named in honour of Levin.

Gregory Moiseyevich Levin spent 40 years building his pomegranate paradise in the Kopet Dag mountains of rural Turkmenistan.

Levin legacy, pomegranata Sogdiana variety.
Levin legacy, pomegranata Sogdiana variety.

Levin, an agronomist amassed the world’s largest collection of pomegranates – 1117 varieties from 27 countries. Some of these varieties included blue pomegranates, black pomegranates and dwarf pomegranates.

Many of these varieties were collected by Levin himself on yearly excursions through the mountain crevices of Turkmenistan, a region in Central Asia where the pomegranate originates from and one of the last places on earth where it grows wild to this day.

A white aril pomegranate of Levin's variety Myagkosemyannyi Rosovyi.
A white aril pomegranate of Levin’s collection. Variety Myagkosemyannyi Rosovyi.

In 2002 Levin was forced to abandon his agricultural station and immigrate to Israel. Fortunately, Levin sent cuttings of his pomegranates to scientists at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba and the University of California, Davis. Those cuttings, planted and now flourishing, have become his living legacy.

No words...only gratitude for Mr Levin. Pomegranate variety Myatadzhi from Levin's collection.
No words…only gratitude for Mr. Levin. Pomegranate variety Myatadzhi from Levin’s collection.

Jeff Moersfelder, the greenhouse manager at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wolfskill Experimental Orchard, which sits on University of California, Davis, said Levin managed to send 90 varieties of pomegranates to Davis during 1999-2000.

Moersfelder is positive that these varieties hold a lot of potential. Many commercial growers are looking to Levin’s collection for unusual flavours, hardiness and pharmaceutical uses.

Levin now lives peacefully with his wife in Israel. Hopefully, someday we will have the privilege of eating blue and black pomegranates, courtesy of Levin’s 40 years of dedication to this jewel of a fruit.
I know they are called arils, however pomegranate pearls are much more appropriate when describing this. Pomegranate variety  Nikitski Rani.
I know they are called arils, however, pomegranate pearls are much more appropriate when describing this. Pomegranate variety Nikitski Rani.
This post is dedicated to my Mother, the human with whom I have laughed with the most by far!
As jy lag (Ingrid Jonker)
“Jou lag is ‘n oopgebreekte granaat
Lag weer
Dat ek hoor hoe lag die granate “
Sources:
Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Pomegranate authority’s labor lives on, 27 August 2007.
Pomegranate Roads: A Soviet Botanist’s Exile from Eden. Gregory Moiseyevich Levin
Keith Wilson, thank you so much! You are a fountain of fruit knowledge! Thank you for generously sharing what you know.
Thanks Wil, for always having some beautiful fruit photos and so much more!
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4 thoughts on “Pomegranate

  1. Love hierd post! Gaan nou op blog ook antw. Ek was spellbound met Alhambra, mal oor Albacin area.

    On Mon, Dec 19, 2016 at 12:06 PM, A Variety of Fruits wrote:

    > Mariska Lemmer posted: “There is something about an overcast sky and the > silence it brings. Sitting by the open window with winter looking back at > me, summer seems a lifetime away. The seasons have never been as defined as > now. It feels like the seasons are more distinguishable ” >

    Like

    1. Baie dankie Ilse! Komende van jou is dit n massiewe kompliment! Ek het dit vreeslik geniet om hierdie post te skryf en ek dink dit is omdat Granada my regtig so aangegryp het! Ek is nie n voorstaander daarvan om terug te gaan na plekke toe nie, maar ek sal verseker weer na Granada toe wil gaan en weer…en hoe mooi is die granate nie. Amper so mooi soos die Alhambra-uitsig! 😉

      Like

  2. What a lovely article. I was hooked at the second sentance “Sitting by the open window with winter looking back at me”. A trip through Spain, beautiful photos and then learning about Pomegranates.

    Like

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