How to Grow Pomegranates, the Healthiest Fruit on Earth

espaliered pomegranates


Pomegranates are probably the healthiest fruit on earth.  Hundreds of peer reviewed articles in scientific journals attest to the multi-faceted benefits of pomegranate consumption, from lowering cholesterol and improving heart function to prevention and treatment of cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Two weeks ago, I asked readers who had success growing pomegranates to share their experiences and some of their responses follow below.
“Many years ago I noticed a beautiful pomegranate tree growing in a Huntington Beach
backyard and decided to give it a try. I bought a small tree from a local nursery about ten years ago.  After several years my tree started producing massive amounts of beautiful, large, sweet pomegranates. The tree has repeatedly produced as many as a hundred pomegranates. The fruit only cracks if it has been left on the tree too long; other than that they are massive and sweet and perfect!  I have never fertilized the pomegranate tree and I water sparingly.”
Laura McCabe, Fountain Valley
“We have 50 pomegranate trees. Two years ago, we had over a thousand pieces of fruit, but last year less than a hundred. Our landscaper pruned the tees back quite aggressively last year. Was that the wrong thing to do? Is there a method to be followed? I find that the articles on pruning are often contradictory. Some say heavy trimming to increase yield, others light trimming. One youtuber said trim every 2-3 years.
I fertilize twice yearly (Nov, Mar) with an all-purpose citrus fertilizer (16-16-16) found at Home Depot or Lowes. We have the trees on automatic sprinklers and soak them once a week most of the year, but twice weekly during the hot months.”
Jerry McLaughlin, Temecula
The aggressive pruning probably removed lots of the trees’ fruiting spurs (squat stems that grow less than 1 inch per year), since these spurs are found on 2-3 year old shoots.  It is better to prune selectively, removing whole shoots that are either weak or cross over more productive ones.  Each deciduous fruit tree has its own pruning regime, depending on whether fruit is borne on shoots or spurs and the rate of growth of the particular species.  You really need to study a tree for a number of years and see where its fruit are produced to learn how best to prune it.  We are fortunate in having youtube videos to speed up this learning process.
“I have about fifteen deciduous fruit trees and nine citrus, all planted in spring, 2004, when we moved into our house.  All, including the pomegranate, are espalier trained, except for my apricot.  Fruit are good sized, from 1/2 and 1-3/4 pounds each.  I make a lot of jelly, freeze some seeds and juice for salad dressing, and make sorbet.  I spend a lot of time picking the seeds out so I sit in the grass where stray juice does not matter and listen to a book on tape.  It takes a few hours to remove the seeds from 40 or 50 fruit.
“I imagine the tree benefits from water applied to my adjacent vegetable garden which is watered once every three days or, if hot, once every two days.  I usually fertilize with citrus and avocado food, once or twice a year.
“I prune to keep the tree straight and narrow and might also prune heavily once every two to three years.  I cut out all suckers at the base of the trunk, too.”
Richard Crowe, Beaumont
It is worth highlighting your practice of growing fruit trees on espaliers (similar to how grapes are grown).  Espalier growing has two significant advantages: yields tend to be larger than on conventionally grown trees (due to the positive hormonal consequences of bending branches to the horizontal) and harvesting is easier since trees are kept at a reasonable height.  In Iran, the pistachio tree’s native land, nearly all pistachio nuts are grown on espaliered trees.
“I have a cousin who lives in Encinitas who has a pomegranate tree at least 25 years old.   It still produces large, delicious fruit every year with dark, sweet, ruby-red arils.  My cousin puts fertilizer plant stakes in the ground around the tree twice a year.”
Susan Grantham, Huntington Beach
“I have a tree with  beautiful, uncracked, 8” diameter pomegranates every year!  I try and water it once a week during the growing season.   I throw half a bag of steer manure around the base of the tree each December before the rains start. I also trim the tree in December to about nine feet. I give out bags of pomegranates to my neighbors, and they all say the same thing: ‘I’ve never seen such beautiful fruit!’”
Jere Edwards, Yorba Linda
Finally, Sandy Morris recommended a trip next fall to El Molino Viejo (The Old Mill), a California Historical Landmark in San Marino, in order to view “lots of pomegranates growing in a dozen or so old trees.  The fruit, made into pomegranate jelly, is the size of baseballs or sometimes softballs and a beautiful red!”  The “Pomegranate Patio” there may be rented out for dinner receptions and parties.
Tip of the Week:  Although all parts of the pomegranate are medicinal, extract from pomegranate peel is 10 times as rich in beneficial biochemicals as the rest of the fruit.  (Note: the peel is the most nutritional part of any fruit.  Even in avocadoes, where the peel is not eaten, the outside pulp that touches the peel is more nutritious than the inside pulp.)  Make pomegranate peel powder for tea by placing the peels in a bowl at room temperature until they are crispy dry.  Then pulverize the peels in a blender or coffee grinder and sift to remove the coarse pieces.  Put one heaping teaspoon of the sifted powder in a cup of boiling water and allow to steep for several minutes.  Add honey and drink.

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