October 26, 2008, Updated June 17, 2015

Mentioned in the Bible, pomegranates are delicious and fun to eat – especially for children who enjoy pulling the fruit-covered seeds from the leathery skin. But time-challenged adults, and seniors with less dexterity, find removing the fruit from its bitter “packaging” a drawback to eating it more regularly.

Hefestus, an Israeli packaging and sealing company now offers American supermarkets, whole foods stores, and jam and juice companies a unique option for pomegranate fans. Using water and sound-wave technology, the company has developed a tool that separates the pomegranate peel and its paper-thin membrane holding the fruit, from the arils, the highly nutritious sweet clusters of seeds we eat, and juice.

“The peel is not only bitter,” says Oded Shtemer, the CEO of Hefestus, but it also contains some components that your body is not allowed to contain too much of, such as cyanide, he tells ISRAEL21c.

The pomegranate, which is a favorite in Israel at this time of year, and eaten during the Jewish New Year to bring prosperity and health, has also become a favorite in America, “thanks to its exotic taste and antioxidant health benefits… they want the ‘whole package’: a ready-to-eat super-fruit with all the health benefits, maximum freshness and ease of use,” says Shtemer, whose company provides packaging solutions for storing the pomegranate seeds in optimal conditions, without the use of preservatives.

No fuss, no “must”

Additional benefits Hefestus can bring with its packaging technology include a unique Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP), which can boost the shelf life of packaged fruit without using synthetic preservatives. The company can work with whatever package the client would like, be it recycled materials, or ones that biodegrade. It also says that its approach uses much less energy than traditional vacuum-sealed methods.

Hefestus’ solution will be warmly welcomed by the juice and jam industry, which has gone to great lengths in order to squeeze the juice from the seeds. One kibbutz in Israel a few years ago, had its volunteers use hammers as an experimental method for extracting the juice – a method which is both very labor intensive and messy.

Founded in 1993 and based in Caesarea, Hefestus is a privately owned company that produces practical and unique packaging solutions to a number of industries. Buyers are from Europe, the United States, the Former Soviet Union, South Africa, Australia and Japan.

Major producers of pomegranates in the world today include Iran, India, China and the United States – a growing supplier, with more and more orange farmers replacing parts of their orchards to “catch the wave,” says Eytan Goldstein, a division manager at Hefestus who will be deploying the machinery and complete solution to America and elsewhere.

Ode to the pomegranate

Native to Iran and the Himalayas in India, the pomegranate has been cultivated since ancient times. The name for “pomegranate” is believed to come from the ancient Egypt rmn, and from which the Hebrew rimmon and the Arabic rumman are derived.

Featured in Egyptian art and mythology, pomegranates are praised in the Old Testament in a number of places. The fruit was often carried by caravans in the desert, who peeled it open, when needed, to extract its thirst-quenching juice.

In the United States, pomegranates can be grown as far north as Washington County in Utah. Preferring a semi-arid climate the tree is especially drought-tolerant. A bonus is that pomegranate trees start producing fruit by their second year, so growers can see payoff from their investment almost straight away.

Right now Hefestus feels it is at a turning point in North America. With a dealer already selling its equipment under a private label, and a pomegranate machine ready for production in California, it’s probably only a short time now that you’ll be able to taste and reap benefits from the pomegranate much more conveniently.

And those in a romantic mood, can eat pomegranates while reciting one of the world’s most famous love poems, the Song of Songs, written by King Solomon: “Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks.”

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

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