There's something faintly exotic about the pomegranate. At this time of year, there's usually an overflowing bin of them in the grocery produce department. Yet many people pass right by legendary fruit, unfamiliar with how to eat it or all the great health benefits it provides.
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A native of the Middle East, the pomegranate is mentioned in the Bible and the Koran. Some scholars believe that Eve's forbidden apple was really a pomegranate. It figures in Greek mythology in the story of Persephone and how her banishment to the underworld for six months of the year created the winter season. And they're a recurrent symbol in the art of many cultures from ancient Egypt through the present day.
But pomegranates are not a staple in most American diet, which is too bad. Widely available during the winter months in the U.S.—most coming from California—its hard, mottled, dark red shell makes it less appealing on display than an apple. If you have ever cut one open, you may have been put off by the mass of slippery wet seeds which need to be dug out from their surrounding membranes. They're not anything like most of the common fruits we eat—the apples and orange and pears and berries we all grew up with.
But give them a try—the work is worth it, and soaking the fruit will loosen the seeds to make them easier to eat. Those seeds have nice little crunch that explodes into a burst of moisture in your mouth. Their taste is smooth and mild with a little bit of a tart edge. And once you start to look at some of the health benefits they've been said in incur, you could become a really big fan.
For a start, pomegranates have been called the fruit of love, widely credited with being an aphrodisiac. There's some pretty good evidence that there's something to this. Pomegranate boosts testosterone levels and has been called "the natural Viagra." Women, don't worry: the effect isn't so strong that you'll start growing hair on your face.
In traditional medicine, pomegranate seeds were used as a digestive aid to cure diarrhea and other disruptions of the digestive system. Given that the seeds are an excellent source of fiber, that wasn't just folklore.
Nutrient-packed pomegranates are an excellent source of antioxidants, among the most of anything you can ingest included much-touted sources like blueberries and green tea. Their flavonoids and polyphenols have been credited with giving protection against an array of chronic aging diseases, including heart disease and cancer, and strengthening the immune system to fight off the bugs that are going around when pomegranates are in season.
There's another compound found only in pomegranates called punicalagin, which has a positive effect on heart health as well. It lowers cholesterol and blood pressure and some research has suggested that pomegranates keep blood vessels cleared of blockages from atherosclerotic plaque, a key factor in heart attacks.
There's a whole list of other health benefits that have been credited to pomegranates, and you may want to take some with a grain of salt. They include staving off a variety of cancers, including breast, prostate and colon cancer and leukemia, strengthening bones and preventing osteoporosis, and helping to overcome depression.
Whether or not pomegranates have all these miracle-working properties, they're still a healthy and tasty addition to any diet, an intriguing little treat to help lift the winter doldrums and take you away to exotic lands and ancient times through your taste buds.
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For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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