'Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks." Song of Solomon 4:3.
As we enter a new year, many of us will buy a pomegranate as part of our Yomtov purchases.
And certainly the pomegranate, with its polished red exterior and delicious, rich red and pink jewel-like seeds or arils looks attractive on the table. But it is fascinating to discover the Jewish symbolism lying within its ruby casing.
The Jews have always considered the pomegranate unique, as they believe it contains 613 seeds - the same number as the number of required mitzvot.
In fact, the pomegranate was so important to biblical Jews that in Exodus it is said that pictures of pomegranates should be woven into the high priest's robe.
While in Kings it describes how the two pillars positioned in the front of the Temple (Jachin and Boaz) would be decorated with pomegranates, Solomon's crown was said to be designed by him in the shape of a pomegranate and often appears on ancient coins as a symbol of sanctity. It is not surprising therefore that the silver Torah scroll covers are called rimmonim or pomegranates.
Then again, some Jewish scholars are convinced that the pomegranate was the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, and it is cited in Deuteronomy as being one of the special wonders of the Land of Israel. And we know that the pomegranate is a symbol of fruitfulness. So for all those reasons the pomegranate deserves its place on our Yomtov table.
In the 21st century, Israeli scientists, led by Michael Avram, have elevated the fruit's modern day value. It was discovered that when it was given to healthy male volunteers with a genetic heart problem, after merely 14 weeks, the pomegranate juice had the effect of decreasing the bad LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) by 20 per cent.
And when given to mice, the pomegranate juice also had the effect of reducing the amount of plaque in the mice's arteries by 44 per cent. The scientists concluded that pomegranate juice had potent anti-heart disease effects in both healthy humans and disease-prone mice.
Following this, the scientists also discovered that patients with high blood pressure, after taking a mere 1.7 fl oz of pomegranate juice per day, could lower their systolic blood pressure by five per cent.
Other Israeli scientists proved that dried pomegranate seeds had "antiseptic and disinfectant qualities" and could fight against E coli and bacillus subtilis. So enjoying pomegranates and their juice can only improve our health.
To prepare, cut in half and bang the top of cut halves with a wooden spoon over open hands into a large bowl. The seeds should fall out into the bowl.
And let's remember how versatile and delicious the pomegranate can be. It is delicious when added to rice in combination with toasted almonds or pine-nuts and plenty of spice.
The jewelled arils look glorious sprinkled on a vegetable salad alongside crisp lettuce and rocket with maybe slivers of a good fresh feta or young ripe brie and some chunks of fresh lemon-dipped pear and walnuts for an autumn treat.
Or try my delicious Pomegranate Tabbouleh, which sits in the fridge for up to two days and is delicious with fish or meat.
● 1 medium deseeded pomegranate
● 150gms, 5oz organic bulgur Wheat
● 450ml, I pint vegetable stock
● 4 large spring onions cleaned and finely chopped
● 1 clove garlic – finely chopped (increase if required)
● 4 large tomatoes finely chopped – some deseed but I believe in the fibre
● 2 organic cucumbers finely chopped
● 50g, 2oz flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
● 50g, 2oz fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
● 1 dessert spoon salt
● Few good grinds black pepper
● Juice and finely grated rind 1 small lemon
● 50ml, 2 fl oz olive oil
● Soak the bulgur wheat in hot stock for half an hour - microwave initially for 5 minutes and then leave to soak for around 25 minutes.
● Drain off any excess liquid from the wheat.
● Add remainder of ingredients and stir.
● Chill, allowing the flavours to mix.
● Re-season if necessary.