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The Arbor Teas Blog

The Forbidden Fruit: Pomegranates and Valentine’s Day

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Pomegranate IllustrationFor many, Valentine’s Day is a day of romance, chocolate, and red roses. But here at Arbor Teas, we think it’s time to shake things up a little. Maybe enjoy a little of the “forbidden fruit?” That’s why our tea of the month is the pleasantly sweet and superbly indulgent Pomegranate White tea. But wait! You may be thinking, wasn’t the apple the forbidden fruit? What’s this about pomegranates? Though the apple has been cast as the perennial example of temptation, a little research reveals that the pomegranate is a worthy contender in the tradition of off-limits produce.

The Prominence of Pomegranates
Pomegranates, as delicious to eat as they are difficult to prepare, have a rich history in myth and society. Archeological evidence suggests that pomegranates have been cultivated for five and a half millennia, originating in the western Himalayas and what is now modern-day Iraq. Its popularity spread quickly, however, and by around the beginning of the second millennium B.C.E., the fruit would be commonplace in Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean. Many religions and societies throughout history, including the Hindu, Hebrew and Chinese cultures, have viewed the pomegranate as a potent fertility symbol. Of interest to us, is how pomegranates became the focus of several mythological traditions among the ancient Greeks, and it is here that that they developed a reputation as a symbol for the taboo or tempting.

An Inconvenient Fruit
In the myth of Persephone, a quintessential tale of temptation and seduction, we find the pomegranate as a “forbidden fruit.” According to one version of the story, Hades (the god of the underworld) falls in love with Persephone, the beautiful daughter of Demeter (the goddess of the harvest), but she will not have him. Hades then lures Persephone into the underworld and tricks her into eating between three and six pomegranate seeds(the number differs depending on which version of the story you hear) because anyone who ate food in the underworld was doomed to spend eternity there.

When she discovered that her daughter was trapped in the underworld for eternity, Demeter went into mourning and withdrew her fertility from the world, causing the earth to wither and die. Zeus was furious and demanded that Hades release Persephone at once, but Hades replied that she had eaten the food of the underworld, and was thus bound there forever. Eventually, a deal was made and Persephone was allowed to return to the earth, but she had to go back to the underworld for six months out of the year—one for each seed she ate—and be as Hades’ queen. Every year during this time, Demeter withdraws her fertility from the world and we experience winter, but new life is restored in the spring when Persephone is freed.

But as we’ve mentioned, the pomegranate’s reputation extends well beyond the Greek mythos and into other religious traditions. Within the Judeo-Christian tradition, the pomegranate (rather than the apple) has been suggested by some Jewish scholars to be the original forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden!

How About Them Apples?
Most people know the story of how, in the Bible, Eve was tempted by the Serpent to eat the apples from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and that by breaking this taboo, she and Adam were banished from Eden. What you may not know, is that apples becoming associated with the Fall of Man is actually a case of several mistranslations and a little bit of artistic license. The first mistranslation comes from the Latin words for “apple,” mālum, and “evil,” malum. The difference is very subtle and it’s likely that this subtlety influenced interpretations of the passage so that the once “evil” fruit became an apple.

The second mistranslation comes from the translation of the Bible into Old or Middle English, wherein the word “appel” refers to “any type of fruit growing on a tree, shrub, or vine.” So this word could refer to anything from apples, to bananas, to cucumbers, to tubers (which, as we all know, aren’t even a fruit), and when used in the passage describing “forbidden fruit,” it only furthered the mālum/malum confusion.

Comparing Apples and… Pomegranates…
Obviously, both fruits have been around for a heck of a long time and both have a host of symbolic meanings, but when it comes to temptation, pomegranates take the proverbial cake.  So why not give into temptation and treat yourself (or the apple of your eye!) to some Organic Pomegranate White Tea? It’s brimming with anti-oxidants and it’s seductively smooth. It’s so good, it should be… forbidden!