Agri Kultuur January / January 2018 - Page 46

Pomegranate Author Institution “Pomegranates are currently ranked as the 18th most consumed fruit globally. It is ex- pected to move to 10th place within the next 10 years due to the fruit’s health benefits, improved cultivar selection and convenient pre-packaging.” - Pomegranate Associa- tion of South Africa T he pomegranate has one of the longest cultivation histories of all fruits, having been central to the Middle Eastern diet since antiquity. Despite its role in art, medicine and religion, and the many myths that surrounded it, pomegranates remained a backyard crop that, until recently, were at most considered a seasonal novelty. However, when the latest medical research confirmed pomegranates’ superfood status, it propelled this fruit to stardom and changed the ways it is produced and consumed. Since 2000, there has been a marked increase in the commercial farming of pomegranates worldwide as consumers clamour to benefit from the vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants that give pomegranate seeds their anti-inflammatory and anti-hypertension properties. Adding to the demand are claims that the fruit could have a positive effect on prostate cancer, heart disease and HIV-1. AgriKultuur |AgriCulture The pomegranate is not an easy fruit to eat. Beneath its tough, leathery skin are hundreds of juicy, bright-red, jewel-like arils (or seeds), held together by paper-thin membranes that are bitter and inedible. Getting the arils out can be time consuming and pomegranate juice causes stains that are difficult to remove from fabrics. But since the fruit’s health profile has risen, people are willing to make the effort. Although the demand for this niche fruit is increasing exponentially, worldwide supply is still very low. In the Northern Hemisphere, the largest producers are Israel, Turkey and the USA. In the Southern Hemisphere, South Africa competes with Chile, Australia, Peru and Argentina. As growing demand creates more export opportunities, producers are finding ways to fill the seasonal window during spring and early summer in the Northern Hemisphere. 46