It is nearly two years since I have been back in Lebanon and the first thing that struck me when I got home to my mother was how much better all the fruit tasted from that I buy in the Lebanese shops in London. I had asked my mother to buy me all that was in season and being the wonderful mother she is, she stocked up on custard apples, jujube, fresh dates and pistachios, khaki, pomegranates and peaches, all of which I adore and all of which I buy in London when they come into season. However, none taste as good there as they do here. Perhaps it is because of the long absence. Or more to the point, perhaps it is because of the time the fruit spend in transit. It could also be the quality. What is exported is possibly not as good as what is sold locally. All I can say is that I will make sure from now on that I go to Lebanon when my favourite fruit is in season. I missed the figs this year. My mother said something very interesting when I asked why she hadn’t bought any. Apparently, they turn sour as soon as it rains. The word in Arabic is ‘bi hammdo’. I never knew that and next year, I’ll be there before any rain spoils the figs!
Like figs, pomegranates are the symbol of fertility. Legend has it that Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, the goddess of fruit and fertility, was carried off to the underworld by Pluto. To force Persephones’s release, Demeter prevented plants from bearing fruit thus creating winter which did not exist previously. Persephone also did her bit by going on a hunger strike although she eventually succumbed and ate a pomegranate which she spat out except for 6 seeds. After which Demeter struck a deal with Pluto whereby she agreed that he would keep her daughter for 6 months of the year, one month for each seed, and she would have her for the remaining 6 months. And this is how summer and winter were created with pomegranates starting to ripen towards the end of summer.