These images show the autumn harvest of pomegranates, a fruit that has played an important role in Iranian life for thousands of years.
Although the fruit grows across the more temperate northern half of Iran, the city of Saveh in Markazi province is considered the real centre of production. Agriculture officials say Iran accounts for about 50 per cent of global production.
The pomegranate’s health benefits have become well-known in recent years, but Iranians have always described it as “mive-ye beheshti”, the “heavenly fruit”.
As an American TV ad for pomegranate juice put it, the warriors of Persian mythology ate pomegranates before going into battle in the belief this would make them invincible.
Before tomatoes were brought back from the New World, pomegranates played a similar role in savoury as well as sweet foods.
Apart from juice, pomegranates are used in a multiplicity of ways. The thick paste is a key ingredient of “fesenjan” stew, a culinary mainstay, the pulp is spread into thin layers and dried for the “lavashak” snack, and there is pomegranate ice cream.
The red colouring and unique taste have given the pomegranate almost mythic status in Iran.
As Sohrab Sepehri, one of the many poets who has used the fruit’s imagery, wrote, “I break a pomegranate and say to myself, I wish the people revealed the seeds of their hearts as it does. The pomegranate juice springs into my eye, I shed tears.”