of the World Housed in Unique California Collection
By Marcia Wood
October 16, 2001
The pomegranate's crunchy seeds,
covered with a slippery, sweet-tart pulp, make this fruit unusual and fun to
eat. Pomegranate is good for you, too. Its low in calories and sodium,
and provides potassium and vitamin C.
Americas official genebank for different kinds of pomegranate from
around the globe is located at Davis, Calif., northeast of San Francisco.
Agricultural Research Service
horticulturist Charles J. Simon, curator of the collection, says the genebank
has what is almost certainly the most diverse assortment of pomegranates in the
Simon credits George A. White of Beltsville, Md., a former curator at the
Davis genebank, for expanding the pomegranate collection. White built it from a
modest 10 specimens, called accessions, toward its current total of 145 by
acquiring pomegranates from hobbyists and others. He gathered additional
specimens by trekking to Turkmenistan, in the former Soviet Union, on a
plant-collecting expedition with pomologist Dan E. Parfitt of the
University of California at Davis.
Pomegranate fruit vary in size from smaller than a baseball up to a
medium-sized cantaloupe, according to Simon. The rind, or exterior, comes in an
assortment of colors, including yellow or deep-orange to nearly red. Inside,
the little sack of pulp around each seed can range from nearly colorless
through yellow and orange to almost beet-red.
The Davis genebank where Simon works is called the
ARS National Clonal
Germplasm Repository for Fruit and Nut Crops. Simon and his staff are
responsible for collecting and safeguarding a genetically diverse assortment of
pomegranates as well as more than a dozen other crops. The genebank is part of
a nationwide system of plant repositories managed by ARS, the chief scientific
research agency of the U.S. Department of