One of our favorite things about being in Morocco is the wonderful fresh fruit that is always available. The best oranges in the world, in my opinion, are grown here along with a wide variety of seasonal fruits such as strawberries, melons, peaches, apricots, plums, grapes, cherries and tangerines. Twice during the past week or so, we have had bowls of pomegranate seeds served at meals. I have been acquainted with pomegranates since my childhood and to be quite honest never cared for them much. The return on investment, laboring to free up the edible part, just never seemed worth the effort.
However, I have observed a considerable change in status the fruit has experienced over the past ten years or so, and it has been quite positive in the public’s perception. Nevertheless, my recollection of pomegranates since my early years is that we ate them if there was no other fruit available. It seems there were lots of the trees, actually shrubs according to what I just read, growing wild in the southeastern part of Houston County, Alabama where I grew up. Indeed, I don’t think we even bothered to pick them up off the ground most of the time. Unlike the product of plum trees which often flourished alongside the country roads or the muscadine vines which could be found in many of the woods and forests, pomegranates were coveted very little, even if they were free.
My perception was they were primarily for poor people, even poorer than us. My maternal grandparents lived in Cottonwood, Alabama, and if my memory is not too faulty, I believe there were a number of pomegranate trees located in what we referred to as my grandmother’s “chicken pen.” I think even she thought that the fruit of those trees were best used as supplements for chicken feed. These were free range chickens and probably benefitted from the much discussed nutritional benefits from pomegranates that we here discussed frequently nowadays.
Evidently pomegranates provide a lot of vitamin C and vitamin K, but I think the fact that put them on the map is that anti-oxidant thing they have going for them. Here’s a sentence from a website called EcoWatch: “Nutrient-packed pomegranates are an excellent source of antioxidants, among the most of anything you can ingest included much-touted sources like blueberries and green tea.” That appears to be a sentence written by the Pomegranate Growers Association or some such organization; however I think the abbreviation PGA is already taken. Believe it or not, the folks here who served them to us with meals the past couple of weeks touted these properties as one of the reasons for serving them.
I have noticed that pomegranates are not inexpensive in grocery stores in the states and the same is true here in Fes. However, the supply is strong and there are tons of them available. Denise relented and purchased a half-kilo of them from a street vendor yesterday and paid the equivalent of sixty cents American. Still, that’s about a dollar per pound, my normal benchmark for separating the cheap and the expensive fruit. We contributed them to the big meal we had at Zoubida’s yesterday that I plan to write about soon. Though they were fine, I still have to be convinced the value is worth the effort.
Evidently, pomegranates originated in what is now Iran (some people even suggest the apple eaten in Genesis refers to a pomegranate) and were subsequently introduced into America at the end of the sixteenth century. Since they allegedly were taken to the U.S. by Spanish explorers, and since there was lots of interaction between Spain and Morocco long before that time, it is not unlikely that pomegranates have been here longer. I do not remember seeing any of them when we were here in the Navy in 1971-72. But there has been tremendous progress made in the fruit industry since that time. Within fifty miles of Fes is some of the most productive areas in the country for the production of all types of fruit, including pomegranates.
The seemingly favorable acceptance of pomegranates as an important addition to one’s dietary regimen is apparently world-wide. About this time last year we were in Istanbul for three days. In the large plaza near out hotel there were often a number of street vendors selling pomegranate juice. I did try it a couple of times, and found it be quite refreshing and enjoyable. However, I am always a little suspicious of anything that enjoys too much good press within the popular culture. Perhaps that is a result of my advancing age and general crankiness that manifests itself in my negative feelings toward anything considered a little too “chic-y.” Thus, my reluctance to grant too much of a positive change in status to what I formerly considered the lowly pomegranate.
On a personal level I am not opposed to that happening. One of the reasons we keep coming here (at least in my case anyway) is the opportunity for a change in status. Here no one has any particular expectations for me. We are regarded as anomalies on our street, akin to some kind of mascot. The people in general seem to like us and respect us, but generally make no demands upon us. Probably lots of folks regard us as little more than a nuisance, like my grandmother with her pomegranates. But little by little, we tend to sense a greater acceptance. I think it will be a long time before there are articles written about what we have to contribute to the value of daily life here. But maybe more and more, the general public in our neighborhood will discover desirable contributions and advantages to our being here. Emulating the pomegranate is quite an objective!