Have You Ever Had a Pomegranate Martini?

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We don’t get to do this very often but one of the things my family loves to do is visit Spoon River Artworks and Market. If you have not been, I highly recommend it. I say visit because, with Mark and Teresa Van Staalduinen, this is an experience in both hospitality and relaxation. The décor is incredible, something you would expect to see from the pages of Southern Living or Garden & Gun magazines. The lights, the vintage books and bookcases, and the artwork on the walls are truly amazing and create such an inviting mix of both modern and vintage materials and textures. Then, there is the food! Their menu changes often and boasts foods sourced from many local farms in Beaufort County. It truly is a Farm to Fork experience. The custom cocktails and wine list are extensive as well from Mark’s Old Fashioned to the Pomegranate Martini! Right here in Belhaven, North Carolina, we have a gem that is worthy of Savannah or Charleston!

Pomegranate fruit hiding among the foliage. Karan A. Rawlins, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

Pomegranate fruit hiding among the foliage. Karan A. Rawlins, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

I say all of this to talk about the incredible pomegranate (Punica granatum) in that martini! I took a picture of the recipe one time but I have certainly not mastered it. We talked about local and Farm to Fork but these pomegranates are probably not local. We can grow them but they do not grow well here due to our humidity. We are right on the edge of where they can be hardy in USDA hardiness zone 8a. That means they won’t die from cold but they still may not make fruit for us here. They like a nice arid climate which we certainly do not have! Pomegranates are native to the area between Iran and Northern India. In the United States, the majority of our production is in California, Arizona, and Texas but they can also be grown in Georgia. The University of Georgia has a great production guide online that discusses good cultivars and site selection.

Pomegranates are wonderful for your health boasting antioxidant levels on the magnitude of green tea and red wine. The sweet but tart juice is high in potassium and vitamin C too. According to the article, “Pomegranate as a Functional Food and Nutraceutical Source” (Johanningsmeier and Harris, 2011), they have been found to have good results with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and prostate cancer in clinical trials. The article also discusses the pomegranate’s anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties! I’m not certain if that translates to a martini glass but man that is some good stuff!

So can we grow pomegranates? The answer is absolutely! They are a wonderful small tree (or bush with pruning) that will fill a space about 10’-12’ high and 8’-10’ wide. They have edible, showy gold, yellow, pink, red, or even white flowers. The bloom season is incredibly long, beginning in April and lasting well into the fall. The trumpet-shaped flowers are a wonderful source of nectar for hummingbirds and insects. Though they are self-fruitful, they still require pollination. As is the case for many self-fruitful trees, having more than one tree ensures better pollination. Flowers may appear in the first year but a good bloom and/or fruit set will not occur until the third year.

Select a site that receives plenty of sun but is protected from cold winter winds. The south exposure of your house or outbuilding is a great place for these and other fruit trees. Soil should be moist but well-drained with deep loamy soil giving the best results although they will work in clays (beware of drowning) and sands (beware of drought conditions). Select a variety that is known to have good cold tolerance. Clemson University offers the following recommendations: ‘Ambrosia’ Angel Red® ‘Wonderful’ (this is the standard) and ‘Utah Sweet’ (has the most cold tolerance). There are several others, even some cultivars that are solely ornamental (no fruit). There are dwarfing and compact cultivars too that mature at less than six
feet tall if you have limited space.

NC State Extension provides unbiased, research-based, University information to you the consumer or producer. If you are having an issue in your home garden or landscape, send your questions to Gene Fox, Consumer Horticulture Agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, please email Gene at gene_fox@ncsu.edu or call at (252)946-0111. Learn more on the Facebook page of the NC State Extension Master Gardener℠ volunteers of Beaufort County or visit the Extension Center located at 155 Airport Road in Washington, NC!