One of the unusual varieties of fruit that we are trying to develop as a crop for our climate is the pomegranate.  It has been cultivated in the Caucasus since ancient times, and today, is grown throughout Iran, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iraq, Egypt, China, Burma, Saudi Arabia, Israel, the drier parts of southeast Asia, the Mediterranean region of Southern Europe, and tropical Africa.  Many of these countries have areas with a climate similar to ours eg:  Long hot, dry summers and cold winters.  Our premise is that even though the commercial production in the USA is limited to California and parts of southern Arizona the fruit is much hardier than it is given credit for and the right varieties or crosses could be grown here.

What do we base that premise on?

  1. A new commercial orchard in the Alamogordo area planted the variety Wonderful which is not considered one of the hardier varieties.  This spring after reaching below 8 degrees in February they reported that they had die back on the branches but had green in the first 6 inches and the plants all appeared alive.  These plants were 1 year when planted in the spring of 2010 so they were very young and not well established.
  2. A tree in Rio Rancho that has had fruit every year for the last 10 years I have watched it.
  3. In the Middle East and Russia, hardiness is prized over flavor and production  in their agricultural programs or just in selecting which varieties to plant. We will probably find the germplasm we are looking for in this area.
  4. A lone plant 9” tall, that we put in last year that struggled just to stay alive in our hot sun and wind has appeared from the roots this year.  Again this winter’s cold arguably -30 or so at the farm was the coldest in 40 years or more.  If we got it through that cold we can get it through a normal winter.

The next reason to choose pomegranates is recent findings of health benefits will make this an “in demand” fruit crop.

As stated on the Pomegranate Fruit website:
Pomegranates are not only delicious and beautiful, they’re also one of the most nutritious fruits you can eat.

High in vitamin C and potassium, a good source of fiber and low in calories.
Pomegranate juice is high in three different types of polyphenols, a potent form of antioxidants. The three types – tannins, anthocyanins, and ellagic acid – are present in many fruits, but pomegranate juice contains particularly high amounts of all three. As antioxidants, they are credited with helping in the prevention of cancer and heart disease.

So, whether you crunch fresh pomegranate seeds or drink the juice, feel guilt-free as you enjoy each delicious mouthful- you’re doing your body a favor!

The third reason for us is actual culture of the plants.  They like hot, dry climates. They tolerate a high ph and low fertility. They are drought tolerant once established.  All of that describes traits that we need in a plant for New Mexico.

The fourth reason is the pomegranate is a very ancient fruit, mentioned in the Homeric Hymns and the Book of Exodus.  Doesn’t sound like we can go wrong there.

We have found that many fruits and plants can be extended beyond the “recommended” range or zone and often that’s what we do.  Most books and articles are just copying what has been written before without anyone except a few dedicated hobbyists actually experimenting to see where the limit really is.  Perhaps a little extra care in the winter, maybe covering with a tarp or straw will allow you to have a taste of the tropics at your fingertips.

We have currently planted 9 varieties to trial and expect to have some good results within 2 years.