Valued as a fresh fruit since ancient times, pomegranate (Punica granatum) is now recognized as a source of antioxidants with healthful benefits. The deciduous shrubs are probably native to Asia and the Near East, and were widely grown throughout the Mediterranean region from before biblical times. The edible part of a pomegranate fruit is the fleshy, translucent seed coating, called an aril. The fruit needs heat to develop, with the plant doing well in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 10.
The most commonly grown pomegranate is "Wonderful," growing 8 to 12 feet tall. Red flowers are followed by large red fruits that ripen in September. The arils are deep crimson, juicy and have a pleasant, sweet-sour taste. "Early Wonderful" resembles "Wonderful," except fruits ripen two weeks earlier. "Granada" has deeper red flowers and darker red, sweeter-tasting fruit, with a growth habit similar to "Wonderful."
Smaller-growing pomegranates also have smaller-sized fruits that are ornamental, but not of eating quality. The fruits are decorative in the garden and are useful in wreaths, floral arrangements and cornucopia and dried fruit bowl displays. "State Fair" flowers and fruits profusely, growing to 5 feet tall with 2-inch fruits. "Nana" reaches only 2 to 3 feet tall and wide, with bright orange-red single flowers. It is more cold-hardy than other cultivars, growing in USDA zones 7 through 11.
One of the sweetest-tasting fruits is "Sweet," which has pink juice, useful in fruit punch recipes. The fruits are greenish with a red flush when ripe. "Utah Sweet" is also very sweet, with pink-orange flowers, pink fruit and juice, and soft seeds. "Fleshman," a very sweet variety that originated in Southern California, also has pink fruits and soft seeds with pink arils. "King" comes from the University of California Davis and has medium to large, dark pink to red fruits with a very sweet taste.
Different Colors of Fruits
The variety "Eight Ball" has deep purple, nearly black fruits and orange flowers. It is more cold-hardy, growing in USDA zones 7 through 10. The plant originated at Plant Delights Nursery in North Carolina. "Green Globe" has large, green-skinned fruits that have a sweet taste. Originating at the University of California Davis, "Home" has yellow-red, sweet-tasting fruits with light pink juice. From the same source is the greenish-red "Cloud," which has sweet white arils and juice.