Pomegranate Theory

Have you ever wondered why it's so difficult to open a pomegranate?

Most fruits can be accessed quite easily, either the skin is edible (apricot) or the peel is a simple barrier to the juicy center (orange) or there's no recognizable peel at all (raspberries). Yet here we have the pomegranate, one of the most delicious fruits, with some of the most unique qualities and brightest colors, that has evolved to be one of the most difficult to open.

Fruit Evolution

Plants and fruits have evolved in different ways to maximize survival:

  • Adaptation to Environment

  • Ripeness & Prevention of Premature Opening

  • Durability

  • Animal Migration Patterns

  • Seed Distribution Strategies

Arid environments cause fruits to build tough skin to survive. An obvious example is cacti, which developed a thick stem and thorns (spines) that help the plant conserve water, create shade and protect against predators. A less obvious example is wild tomatoes in the Andes that grew a tougher skin to survive high altitude conditions.

Many fruits use their ripeness - like bananas changing color - as a way to preserve themselves the longest and avoid premature opening. Seeds grow just as the fruit does, so premature opening of fruit could lead to underdeveloped seeds that could result in poor germination and survival. Some fruits attempt offensive strategies vs. defensive survival strategies, like passionfruit, who’s bright coloring attracts more pollinators to help it flourish.

Coconuts are a fascinating study of durability. Most nuts evolved over millions of years to have harder shells, but the Coconut in particular developed a water-resistant husk that ensures it will survive long distance travel over bodies of water, without being damaged by salt water. A unique survival strategy that is specifically useful for coastal environments.

Even more interesting is megafaunal dispersal, the evolution of plants in relation to large animals. It is believed that avocados benefited greatly from large animals like sloths and toxodons, that ate whole avocados, traveled and then pooped out the seeds in new lands where an avocado tree would propagate. Many of the animals capable of megafaunal dispersal are mostly extinct from 13,000 years, yet human cultivation has also achieved similar results today.

It’s interesting to note that not all fruits were worried about animal predators but rather took advantage of animal migration. Mangos evolved to be suitable for large animals but not small animals, as the seed is too big for many to carry distances far enough from the mango tree to continue propagating its species. It’s also quite common for fruits to be fleshy and appealing to specific kinds of animals that are likely to eat the seeds and survive the digestion, then excreted and germinated in new areas.

Some fruits even have seeds that can attach to animal fur that can be carried longer distances, while flowers like Violets and Trilliums produce oil-rich elaiosomes that attract ants, so ants end up distributing the flower seeds. Wind is also a common seed distribution mechanism, with some fruits having evolved to benefit from windy conditions, such as samaras from maple trees, those little wispy things that fly around like helicopters in the wind to spread maple seeds.

Fruits also employ a variety of physical protection strategies to ensure longevity that vary from exterior features, to toxins, to camouflage. Roses and blackberries developed thorns to protect themselves from being eaten by predators. Meanwhile Cherries, Apples and Peaches seem to be okay being eaten, but wanted to ensure the survival of their seeds. So they contain amygdalin in each seed that can turn into cyanide when chewed and ingested. Strangely, the squirting cucumber launches its seeds as far away from the plant as possible, and with such force that the seeds end up burying themselves far from the sights of animals.

Back to pomegranates

Pomegranate seeds are more than just the glistening jewels on top of your salad. This magical fruit seemed to adopt a plethora of strategies to survive and thrive.

The main animal migration patterns that benefited pomegranates are actually us humans who cultivated them and drew great cultural significance from the fruit, where they eventually ended up on trade routes. Pomegranates originated near the Himalayan region including Northern India, Iran and Pakistan, with cultivation dating back to at least 3,000 BC. They were revered by many ancient cultures like the Egyptians as symbols of prosperity and ambition and drew them on their walls.

Most religions also have a special place in their hearts for pomegranates. In Judaism it is believed the pomegranate has 613 seeds, which corresponds with the 613 commandments in the Torah. Christianity often depicted pomegranates signifying resurrection, in relation to Virgin Mary or Jesus. Islam refers to pomegranates in the Quran as seeds brought down from paradise, and for Persians pomegranates symbolize fertility or eternal life.

“Madonna of the Pomegranate" - Sandro Boticelli (1485)
“Madonna of the Pomegranate" - Sandro Boticelli (1485)

To endure the climate in its native region, pomegranate trees can handle extreme heat and cold. The fruit exteriors are sun-reflectant and they have deep root systems for conserving water that make them heat tolerant. The pomegranate has a dual layer that mitigates opening when not ripe, working hard so the fruit and seeds aren’t opened prematurely.

The interior husk is interesting as the pomegranate is one of the only fruits that grew to protect all of its seeds at once (exterior) as well as protecting its seeds individually (interior husk). This dual protection mechanism ensures that seeds are preserved until the fruit is opened and allows the pomegranate to double up on safeguarding against environmental impacts (ie, harsh winds) and predators who can’t easily access their fruit. However, here’s where things start to get interesting. The pomegranate fruit itself is synonymous with each seed, a rarity for fruits. The fleshy edible bits only exist as casings around each seed, and each fruit a gold mine of seeds!

Pomegranate Mines - AI Generated (2024)
Pomegranate Mines - AI Generated (2024)

Of all the fruits mentioned, the most unique thing about pomegranates is the seeds. Whereas fruits like tomatoes, watermelons and pumpkins have many seeds as well, they have other edible material and eating the seeds doesn’t add much value to the experience - you could pick out each watermelon seed and still enjoy the watermelon fruit. Yet pomegranates are both the fruit and seed in one! In fact, pomegranates have the highest number of seeds of any fruit, sometimes up to 1,500 seeds!

When you think about it, all of the fruit survival methods mentioned above are really just seed preservation strategies. Most fruits contain seeds that are not intended to be eaten but are a byproduct of the fruit's seed distribution strategy for longevity. Seeds that are the fruit themselves are usually harder like almonds. If the seeds are surrounded by fleshy bits like in Lychee or Kiwi, they usually have one or few seeds. Pomegranates stand out and furthermore, lead the way in survival-resistant mechanisms. Do fruits with many seeds inherently evolve to have more optimal seed preservation strategies?

Colloquially, women’s bodies are also constantly protecting their seeds, in particular during ovulation. During this time body temperatures tend to rise slightly and women sometimes feel unwell, as a result of the immune system exerting more focus on protecting eggs from illness, than the host itself. I wonder if similar to pomegranates, does a woman’s survival instincts kick in more, the more eggs she has? Is this why humans have survived this long?

"Caused by the Flight of a Bee" - Salvador Dali (1944)
"Caused by the Flight of a Bee" - Salvador Dali (1944)

Punica Granatum, Hakuna Matatum

To top this all off, pomegranates are one of the most super of super foods. Filled with antioxidants, pomegranates help our bodies manage stress, they’re anti-inflammatory, support joint and skin health. Regular consumption of pomegranate juice is shown to improve heart health, cholesterol and reduce the risk of diabetes and slow cancer progression. Not to mention pomegranate peel extract was explored as a covid cure.

Not only do pomegranates supercharge the meaning of survival of the fittest with their many seed preservation strategies. But they also show an impenetrable focus on reproduction and the ability for the fruit to continue reproducing hundreds of seeds for years. When studying the genetic material of the punica granatum it has become evident that pomegranates experienced two major chromosome events that contribute to their adaptability, resilience and genetic diversity. Furthermore, there is “unrivaled gene conservation” also known as shared synteny, where we can see preserved co-localization of genes on chromosomes across pomegranate species throughout history. Anecdotally, this strengthens the thesis that the need for protection of the innumerable pomegranate seeds may have contributed to maintaining its genetic dominance.

Pomegranate Fields Forever - AI Generated (2024)
Pomegranate Fields Forever - AI Generated (2024)

Pomegranate Theory

From the Persian Yalda Night to the annual Pomegranate Festival in Azerbaijan to being one of the most expensive fruits in an American grocery store, it is clear pomegranates are celebrated and culturally preserved by humans.

One must wonder whether the reason for the pomegranate’s reverence is as a result of its unique survival mechanisms and significant potential for reproduction? The analysis of pomegranates relative to other fruits, and the anecdotal evidence of their rarity, mystery and difficulty to access leaves a lot to aspire to. We are left with many questions. Why is the pomegranate the most seeded fruit and thus has the most opportunity to spread its seed globally? Did the pomegranate evolve to protect so many seeds or did the seeds multiply because the pomegranate was so protected?

The coalescence of features lead me to develop the Pomegranate Theory, an idea that highlights the one thing that unites all living things - the survival of seeds and the power of longevity.

Unlike the many-seeded watermelons and pumpkins, you can’t just cut open a pomegranate, you need to pick out each seed/fruit individually or adopt some kind of efficient seed extraction mechanism. Some suggest carving out the top and then slicing the fruit into 1/5ths before splitting it, I’ve seen others remove the seeds in a bowl of water so the white husk comes off easily. I personally have struggled many a minute digging through white seed peels, only to realize I’d been hypnotized by the pomegranny and was implementing a faulty strategy.

To fully appreciate how wonderful they are, I suggest you try to open one yourself and rawdog a pomegranate, instead of buying the cleaned seeds or pom juice. Its remarkability is made tangible when you compare the ease of peeling a tangerine in 1 minute versus the effort of extracting pomegranate seeds, literal rubies of nature, that will take you at least 3-15 minutes, depending on your carving strategy. The gratification is worth it. Usually the things with the most to protect are the most special.


The Pomegranate Theory

That which cultivates the most seeds - seeds of life, seeds of wisdom or seeds of creativity - will survive the longest and the strongest.

[That which cultivates the most, will survive the longest and the strongest.]


Not brought to you by big pomegranate.

Ancient Egyptian wall art with pomegranates (2,300 BCE)
Ancient Egyptian wall art with pomegranates (2,300 BCE)
Persephone and the Pomegranate (Greek Mythology)
Persephone and the Pomegranate (Greek Mythology)
Pomegranny - AI Generated (2024)
Pomegranny - AI Generated (2024)


  1. https://www.kew.org/read-and-watch/surprising-pomegranate-facts#:~:text=The Romans mistakenly assumed pomegranates,Pakistan and parts of Afghanistan

  2. https://www.kew.org/read-and-watch/surprising-pomegranate-facts#:~:text=The Romans mistakenly assumed pomegranates,Pakistan and parts of Afghanistan.

  3. https://www.alimentarium.org/en/fact-sheet/pomegranate-miracle-fruit#:~:text=Pomegranates play an important role,as possible to be fulfilled.

  4. https://red-crown.ca/2015/08/the-most-ancient-of-fruits/

  5. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpls.2023.1039211/full

  6. https://digitalcommons.morris.umn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1082&context=horizons#:~:text=The image of the pomegranate,a Bee​(1944).

  7. https://digitalcommons.morris.umn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1082&context=horizons#:~:text=The image of the pomegranate,a Bee​(1944).

  8. Chat GPT

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