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October 09, 2004: Sometimes nature fights back

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I love pomegranates. I love them so much that when we were doing our garden plan I insisted that it had to include at least one pomegranate tree. And this past spring our tiny little tree produced exactly two blossoms, both of which fell off shortly after they appeared. But that's okay I wasn't expecting to get actual fruit from any of our trees for a year or two. Besides, we didn't need pomegranates from my tree for our yearly jelly making party. One of the others in our group has a whole slew of trees and had more than enough of them last year.

Except that this year there were issues with her trees, and suddenly we were faced with a serious shortage of pomegranates. We discussed buying juice, but somehow that seemed like cheating. After all, there are people out there strange people, to be sure, who have pomegranate trees and do not like pomegranates. I figured surely one of them wouldn't mind us taking their unwanted fruit off their hands.

So I put a call out to the local Freecyclers group, and within a week I had a response. A very nice couple noted that they had a huge tree overflowing with fruit and I was welcome to come and pick as much as I wanted.

I have already noted that I love pomegranates. But, our tiny little fledgling tree aside, I have never actually had to interact with a pomegranate *tree* before. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Luckily I had the foresight to put on jeans before I headed off to divest their tree of pomegranates, but I should have also put on long sleeves, and maybe even full body armor.

The problem, you see, is that pomegranate trees are not friendly trees. They are, in fact, quite nasty little trees when it comes to harvesting time. Not only are they full of sharp and prickly points, they also refuse to give up their fruit without a fight. Most fruit, when ripe, tends to come off the tree easily, and in fact if not picked in time, will fall off on its own. Not so with pomegranates. When ripe, the fruit remains firmly affixed to the tree, and instead of falling to the ground like any other self-respecting fruit, it simply splits open at the bottom, allowing all the seeds to spill out. Removing the pomegranates themselves takes great strength, determination, and one or more extremely sharp cutting objects.

I did manage to battle the tree long enough to fill four grocery sacks to overflowing with some of the largest pomegranates I have ever seen, and last night I began the rather tedious task of shucking them. There are cuts and scratches all over my arms and even a few on my face, and I was still picking tree parts out of my hair long after I came home from picking the fruit. And my fingers are stained an oh-so-charming yellowish green from several hours of shucking them last night. But there are four gallon Ziploc bags stuffed full of pomegranate seeds in my freezer and only two grocery sacks remain to tackle one of which I think I may be able to pawn off on another of the jelly-making group to prepare. And after next weekend there will be much making of jelly and I will look back on my encounter with the pomegranate tree and I will decide that it was all worth it.

And I will keep a very careful eye on my own pomegranate tree and maybe invest in some very long-handled gardening shears so I can remove fruit from my own tree with a few less battle scars in the future.

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