مقالات عن مانكيش

Pomegranates: The Fruit of my Great-Grandparents

Francis

Francis K. Khosho

 

 

Pomegranates: The Fruit of my Great-Grandparents

By Francis K. Khosho

 

It was late at night – I splashed my face with cold water.  I went back to my bed, and promptly fell asleep. Overcome by this recurring dream

 It was late spring in Mangeshi and I was walking through the mountains and sloping hillsides. I noticed the sprinkles of budding grass, wild cereal grains, and colorful flowers

My mother was fetching water and hanging laundry on (Kharkhera) at the edge of the village pond (Berki D’Matha)

Herdsmen were getting the cows together and driving them off to pasture, bringing them back to the village in the evening

A piece of wood was burning and covered over in the hearth (Kanona). Some embers (Shakheshla) continued to burn, twelve or even twenty four hours later.  When it went out, you can still gather embers from neighbors.  Little sticks (Cheleki) or straw dust (Tona) on top of that; and by dint of blowing, you can get the fire to light in the morning

I saw harvest crops being carried in from the field that would topple onto the floor for threshing (Bedratha, which lies to the east of the village).  I saw oxen, mules, and donkeys drag boards studded with flints teeth (Kayekra) over the crops.  During the harvest, the dust blew about the threshing-floor; and of course, they were covered with it front and back. Their hands, their faces, their mouths and their noses were coated with straw-dust. My heart was torn to pieces, seeing them wear themselves out

A woman rose at night kneading dough while the rest of the household was still asleep, she was tasked with baking thin bread (Raqi) for the week.  While the bread was being made, tears poured from the women’s eyes, on account of all the smoke used to make the bread

My eyes suddenly snap open, and sunlight pecks my cheek. I begin writing until dawn.  I see streaking violets (Zareri D’Yoma) outside my window in California. Pomegranates take me back to memories I hold so dear, back to the orchards of

 

Mangeshi. I envision Pomegranate flowers in full bloom, words flattered in and out of my mind, a tickle but enough to start this article
Mangeshi farmland was fertile for the production of crops, rearing livestock, and poultry. Many crops were cultivated such as wheat, barely, lentils, corn and millets. Orchards and groves cultivated fruits such as figs, apples, peaches, apricots, pears, prunes, pomegranates and nut trees such as walnut and almonds
Pomegranates were planted in orchards and fields around the village. They would thrive wonderfully due to the hot and dry conditions of the summer. The trees flowered with stunning bright red flowers and would bear the most delicious fruit. It was magical; you would just pick the fruit straight from the tree, crack it open and bite. The juices would run down your face and cheeks
Villagers would cultivate several varieties of pomegranates such as sweet (Haloyi), tangy fruit (Mezwi) and ruby red (Khamosi)
The pomegranate tree would grow two to seven meters high. It had many branches that would spring with glossy leaves. The flowers at the branch tips were bright red and the fruit would grow in a variety of colors and sizes. Rinds (Qalpi) could be red, yellow, pink, or orange. The fruit would persist long after the leaves fell from the trees or remain on the branch during the winter if not picked Sartoryatha

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With the modern mode of communication and transportation, compulsory education and world modernity of the new era. The older way of life will pass away and be forgotten in a few decades, despite its long history. For love of my home town Mangeshi, its people, our community, history, and eager reading have given me enough sophistication to feel a desperate need to tell the next generation about a way of life which they will not observe first hand but I will share my upbringing: My generation and grandparents up to late seventies

 

 Mangeshi Art Painting, Author’s Collection (Photo by: Author 2019)
Mangeshi Art Painting, Author’s CollectionPhoto by: Author 2019

 

 

Pomegranate was the food of our forefathers and was kept for generations in the village of our ancestors.  It’s worth noting that pomegranates are acknowledged from ancient times as one of the oldest fruits in history.  An Assyrian seal, showing the tree of life, depicts a pomegranate tree. Ancient Sumerian plaques feature dates and pomegranates, which are both symbols of fertility, and the Babylonian pomegranate was served at weddings and represented the symbol of love and abundance

 

 literature about pomegranates mention that the native origin of the fruit is Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. This idea ignores another factual origin in the land of Twin Rivers, which has been acknowledged for more than 3500 years on cuneiform records

 

 

In Mangeshi, the pomegranate fruit grew plentifully. The villagers would eat them raw, savoring each precious seed, since they would see the fruit only once a year. They would give it away to neighbors and relatives. People mainly used the fruit to make syrups and a specific type of molasses. We use to have a giant old sour pomegranate tree (Armonta Khamosta) they were so sour that we could not eat them. I would like to share my Mom’s, (Shoni Hirmiz B’Rabi) recipe from the fifties
When ripe, discard the rind and membrane before juicing. This is to prevent the juice from getting bitter and acrid
Shake out the seeds from the rind
Extract the juices from pomegranate seeds
Strain the juice through a porous device or sieve (Makhelta), to separate out any solid material
Put the juice in a clean pot

Boil it on a slow fire until it is reduced Qashya

Cool to room temperature

Bottle the syrup (My mom used any clean glass bottles available at the time

To serve, dilute the required amount

Enjoy My favorite dish was Khomsa

Pomegranates were picked in September, particularly before an early rain. They were dried and stored indoors. Knowing how to properly dry fresh pomegranate was an important step in using them for food during winter. Pomegranates dehydrate well when prepared correctly. The villagers would select whole, fresh pomegranates that were smooth and firm.  They made sure there was no sponginess or bruising on the rinds, and would place them on a clean bare surface. The fruit was set close, side by side, which allowed the free circulation of air. One side was dry, while the other remained moist. Drying on the ground was cumbersome and sometimes they used trays (Pathoryatha). My mom would tell me “Broni (my son), be sure to turn the fruit over every week to ensure that the pomegranates dry evenly.”  I would turn them over one by one until all had been turned over. Whilst drying, they would turn a very dark purple. We watched them closely in order to prevent them from becoming too dry

         I discovered that caterpillars bore into the calyx and would feed on the internal contents (pulp and seeds), spoiling the fruit. Also, while the tree was flowering, airborne fungal spores would spread to the open flowers and enter the fruit. The fungal disease was activated with moisture from water in the form of rain

The way I store pomegranate here in California is as follows

 

Select firm, heavy, glossy deep colored rind pomegranate

Make sure there are no bruises, no sponginess, or mushy spots. They must have a smooth and unbroken surface

Cut the calyx (don’t expose the seeds) and discard the calyx

 

Cut the Calyx of Pomegranate and Refrigerate Photo by: Author 2019
Cut the Calyx of Pomegranate and Refrigerate Photo by: Author 2019

 

Refrigerate for me this lasts more than six months

Enjoy its fresh addictive luscious crunchiness

n the Mangeshi wintertime, on snowy days, we used to dilute the pomegranate syrup with water and add it to freshly packed snow and enjoy it as a sweet refreshing drink.  Sometimes we would break open the dried pomegranate in the depths of winter and enjoy its seeds, this was a true pleasure. It was like opening a chest and discovering shining red rubies, all set in rows. We would eat them out of our hand. The pomegranate was broken apart by teeth or knives, then the seeds were shaken out of the rind and eaten. Mangeshnayi do not consider this a laborious task, but rather, a social or friendly activity, prolonging the pleasure of being together

 

Sweet Pomegranate Arils/Seeds Photo by: Author 2019
Sweet Pomegranate Arils/Seeds Photo by: Author 2019

 

 

At our orchard, there was a large old pomegranate tree. It had grown like a willow (Reshwa), creating a magical circular space underneath it. No one could see us from the outside of the tree. The growth was that thick! We would pick ripened pomegranates from outside the tree then enter our secret house. We would tell stories and make wild guesses about our future as we munched on the sweet-tart fruit seeds
Growing up as a child in Mangeshi, I wondered why pomegranate flowers fell and why they split. Apparently, after a bit of research, I found that pomegranate trees are self-fruitful, meaning the flowers on pomegranate trees are

 

Pomegranate Split /Perqeya Photo by: Author 2019
Pomegranate Split /Perqeya Photo by: Author 2019

 

both female and male. Pollinating insects assist in spreading the pollen from flower to flower. Male pomegranate flowers fall off naturally as do unfertilized female blooms. Fertilized female flowers are what remain on the tree to become fruit. Other reasons for pomegranate flowers dropping are pests, fungal diseases, and the environment – due to cold weather or too little water. I found that fungal pathogens usually cause the split of the fruit (Perqeyi). The fungal spores infiltrate the fruit and cause the pomegranate to split. Also, too much water can encourage fruit splitting

Pomegranates are also considered to be a medicinal plant because of their antioxidants and other healing properties. In Mangeshi, they were used to treat diarrhea, aid in digestion, dysentery, prevent colds, and curing other illnesses. Due to its many digestive properties, pomegranates were normally served at the end of a meal. In the past, dye extracted from the peels of the pomegranate was used in leather processing and coloring. Since pomegranate can stay fresh for many months without refrigeration, it was the perfect item for trade while traveling (Karwan) to other villages and towns such as the Nineveh plain villages. Villagers

 

 

would bring the fruit with them to exchange for wheat

Monstrance Shemsha D'ewa
Monstrance Shemsha D’ewa

In June (Hzeran) of each year, Mangeshnayi celebrate the feast of the Holy Eucharist (Etha D’Qorbana). On this day, they adorn their church with fresh branches of pomegranate flowers, fresh wild roses (Warde D’Karmani). Very well- known places during that time were Karmi Jopa Saco, Karmani D’ Qam Matha, and Karmani D’Naboa.  It has been well over forty-five years since those days in Mangeshi, but it still feels as though it was only yesterday. This mass was and still is one of my treasured memories from back home. How happily I recall the morning mass of the Holy Eucharist feast that was observed in a very festive way. I enjoy it because I was gifted with an excellent memory of rhyme and verse and so I excelled in reciting these bits of wisdom. Mangeshnayi observe and pray to God for their life and their family’s prosperity during this day of celebration

The ceremony starts with a divine Mass (Raza Raba). On this day, Mangeshnayi receive communion, in commemoration of the last supper. The priest blesses the people with Eucharist displayed in the Monstrance (Shemsha D’ewa).  This accompanied by chanting and singing songs of adoration would bind us in solidarity.   The shape of the Monstrance that I remember in Saint George church (Eta D’Markewarkes), had a frame made of gold, with a round flat window with a design of golden rays that seemed to emanate from the center. It could stand on its base and any time the Monstrance was viewed by the congregation, we would

 

My grandchild enjoying my great-grandfather's fruit Photo by: Author 2019
My grandchild enjoying my great-grandfather’s fruit Photo by: Author 2019

 

kneel in submission. We could not pass by it without acknowledging it by kneeling and making the sign of the cross with our hands
At the end of the mass there was a procession of the Eucharist. The priest carried the bread in the monstrance. A procession of clergy, Rabi Hermes with red robe were being led by the altar boys with candles. The altar boys would lead the procession and walk out of the church door followed by the people of Mangeshi. During the procession, on the church square (Darta D’Eta), the faithful would throw rose pedals, pomegranate flowers, holly hock (Aretha) and other flowers. This was done as a symbol of fertility and as a blessing of their crops. As children, we would run out and rush to collect what was on the ground. After this, the priest gave blessings to all that were present. The blessing of the Eucharist was also accompanied by chanting and singing songs (Mzayohi). A sign of honoring the Echarist and a glorification of the Lord’s presence among the faithful

 

Here in America, I vividly remember the first time I saw a pomegranate tree. I was

Flowers and young fruit on a Pomegranate Tree Photo By: Author 2019
Flowers and young fruit on a Pomegranate Tree Photo By: Author 2019

 

invited to a friend’s house in California and I saw a pomegranate tree in his yard

Armonta  I said

Pomegranate my friend said

It’s Armonta in my home town Mangeshi I replied

It’s Pomegranate here in California my friend responded

When I left, my friend gave me a tender shoot to take home. When I got home, I planted the shoot in my yard. A piece of my great grandparent’s fruit I said

 For me, pomegranates are a reminder of the many fruits of Mangeshi. They remind me of our time together and our hope for blessed futures. During this holiday season, I long for peace, fruitfulness, and prosperity to all of our people around the world. As we relish each aril, I think of “Christmas” prayer and replete with acts inspired by religion and piety as the pomegranate is rich and replete with seeds

 

Pomegranate harvest Photo by: The Author
Pomegranate harvest Photo by: The Author

 

 

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د. عبد الله رابي
د. عبد الله رابي
2019-12-23 22:24

الاخ العزيز فرنسيس كلو المحترم عيد ميلاد مجيد وكل عام انت والعائلة الكريمة بخير وصحة وعطاء عودتنا أن نقرأ بين فترة واخرى عن تحفة فنية من تراث قريتنا الجميلة منكيش ،فاليوم ذكرتنا قصة الرمان المنكيشي بنوعيه الحلو والمزوي الحامض ،مع وصف جميل ومشوق لشجرة الرمان وطريقة وموسم الجني وتحضيراته وفوائده للانسان ،اخذت بنا الى بساتين بيث رابي التي كانت أشجار الرمان فيها تكسو مساحات كبيرة بانواعه كما كانت البساتين الاخرى في القرية. وكثيرا ما كنت اساعد الوالدين بقطف الرمان من الشجرة العالية الكبيرة،واما المتدلية منها كانت تُقطف بعصا معكوفة من نهايتها ” لا اتذكر اسمها الصحيح حيث كان لها اسم… قراءة المزيد ..

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