As a collector of pomegranates, I believe we
found our first pomegranate paradise nestled in Eastern Europe in the coastal
country of Croatia. Along winding roads over looking the Adriatic sea hangs
pomegranates of all different varieties and sizes. As a collector of
pomegranates, I know each of my plants by name. Here pomegranates grow along
side highways, in people’s front yards, even on an outdoor patio of a
restaurant. As we entered the old town in Dubrovnik, we were thrilled to find
markets full of large red pomegranates or cepaks. A quick glance at the fruit
will produce a sample of seeds half the size of the pomegranates. Touring the
perimeter of the old fortress walls of Old Town Dubrovnik, we look down into
peoples back yards where pomegranate trees the size of aged oaks intermingle
with lemon trees.
We head up the coastline to the next major city, Split. Here we find markets full of pomegranates of varying colors, yellow, pink, light red, and dark red. Some are small, some are large, some are sweet and some are sour. Inside Diocletian’s Palace, in front of an old cathedral, we are surprised to find one lonely pomegranate tree mingled amongst roman ruins.
We stop along the highways to visit many of the roadside market stands that are scattered through the coastline of Croatia. Here, you can buy bags of pomegranates, figs, olive oil, oranges, and grapes. As we drive towards the Istrian peninsula, the temperature becomes cooler and the wind picks up. Many of the islands in the northern part of Croatia are subjected to harsh windy conditions. Despite this climate, we were surprised to find that pomegranates continue to grow throughout the region. After tasting many varieties of pomegranates, each one distinct in their flavor and color, we leave the country to head to our next adventure: Italy.
The mere mention of Italy brings thoughts of olive oil, wines, and delicious pasta to mind. However, Italy is also rich in pomegranates. In fact, one town has developed a special passion for this delicious fruit. Each year in October, the town of Casola Valsenio holds an annual festival of the forgotten fruit. The town comes alive with fruit stands, colorful displays of pomegranates, live music, fire roasted chestnuts, homemade wines, dried figs, and a variety of fruits unknown by name and tongue. This festival attracts people from Italy and beyond (including two individuals from North Carolina). The town quickly becomes packed with people, food, and lively music.
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