Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Pomegranates - Our Bumper Crop!

Yes, we have lots of pomegranates! I'd say 104 is lots. As in, what are we going to do with all of them? This is our first large crop and it is surprising. Usually we have around 25 nice pomegranates, nothing like this.
Who knew the pomegranates would match my curtains? 
Pomegranates have been harvested in the Middle East since hundreds of years B.C. They are suited to dry warm climates like my Los Angeles area home and will grow in USDA Hardiness Zones 7-10. I planted mine 20 years ago in the most neglected space of our property, an area that has no irrigation. 
I was looking for a small tree to shade our ancient air conditioner which is located in a sunny space near a wall. 
Because we have a low power line there, the tree needed to be small and pomegranates grow as a multi-trunk shrub or they can be pruned to tree form, and will grow to 10-15 feet high and wide. 

This space gets no regular water, so after planting it I watered it regularly for the first year to get it established. Then I watered it deeply every few weeks during the summer for the next couple of years. Now that it is mature, it gets only rain water (and not much of that), and a little bit of water condensation run-off from the air conditioner during the summer. I fertilized it when I transplanted it, and that was the last fertilizer it has received. It is thriving under these arid conditions and this year we have a bumper crop.
Pomegranates tolerate a variety of soil conditions including slightly alkaline soil. They do require good drainage and full sun (at least 6 hours of sun). Once established they generally do not require feeding. 

The trees are pretty, green leaves are attached by red stems. 
The waxy bright orange-red flowers create a showy display against the foliage. There are no blossoms on my tree so a couple of pictures of fallen blossoms will have to suffice.
Pomegranate potpourri
Take care when purchasing a pomegranate tree/shrub as there are ornamental fruitless varieties sold as landscape shrubs. These will flower but no fruit will be produced. It takes several years for a pomegranate tree to bear fruit. The first few years it may bloom but the blossoms will fall without setting on fruit. I have noticed that my yields are improving as the tree matures, although I understand that most trees gradually become less productive after about 15-20 years.

As the fruit ripens in the fall, the color becomes more red. We harvested some and made grenadine syrup, and although the fruit is not fully ripe, the syrup is delicious. If left on the tree, the fruit will eventually split. This is the point of peak ripeness so pick it or the squirrels will eat it for you.
We have plans to make jelly, and we'll use some in salads. That will leave lots of pomegranates, so I hope for suggestions on what to do with this great crop. What is your favorite thing to make with pomegranates?


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