Pomegranate (Punica granatum L.) is a nonclimacteric fruit sold fresh as whole fruit or arils (fleshy seeds). It is also used for the production of juice, wine, and syrup. Pomegranate is popular due to its numerous health benefits. In the United States, it is grown primarily in California and other semi-arid regions, with Wonderful being the most widely grown cultivar. However, preliminary research has shown that ‘Wonderful’ produces low yields in Georgia, thus indicating the need to identify cultivars better suited for warm and humid conditions, such as those of the southeastern United States. The objective of this study was to determine the physical and chemical quality attributes of pomegranate cultivars grown in Georgia. Pomegranate fruit from 40 cultivars were harvested during 2012 to 2017. Individual fruit weight varied from 124 g for ‘Utah Sweet’ to 631 g for ‘C1’. The total fruit weight percentage accounted for by fresh aril weight (aril fraction) ranged from 22% for ‘C8’ to 70% for ‘JC’. Individual aril weight ranged from 174 mg for ‘Utah Sweet’ to 638 mg for ‘Cloud’. Across cultivars, individual fruit weight increased linearly with the increasing number of arils. Aril color varied from white to deep red. The arils L* value ranged from 15.7 (dark arils) for ‘Crown Jewel’ to 46.1 (light arils) for ‘Utah Sweet’. The a* values ranged from 0.6 (white arils) for ‘Cloud’ to 20.5 (red arils) for ‘Crab’. The b* values ranged from 8.7 for ‘DJ Forry’ (from a store) to 62.5 for ‘R9’. The Chroma* values ranged from 13.4 for ‘Cloud’ to 24.3 for ‘Crab’. The hue° values ranged from 29.7 for ‘Wonderful’ (from a store) to 87.1 for ‘Cloud’. Rind color was related to the color of the arils; high a* values in the rind and arils were associated with the red color. The fruit juice content ranged from 174 mL·kg−1 fruit for ‘Utah Sweet’ to 638 mL·kg−1 fruit for ‘Cloud’. Cultivars varied from tart to sweet. The fruit soluble solids concentration (SSC) ranged from 10.8% for ‘Sin Pepe’ to 16.4% for ‘Crown Jewel’. Fruit titratable acid (TA) ranged from 0.27% for ‘Sin Pepe’ to 6.20% for ‘Utah Sweet’. The juice maturity index measured as the SSC/TA ratio ranged from 1.9 for ‘Utah Sweet’ to 39.5 for ‘Sin Pepe’. The juice total phenols (measured as gallic acid equivalents) ranged from 463 mg·L−1 for ‘JC’ to 2468 mg·L−1 for ‘Wonderful’ (Georgia). Trolox equivalent antioxidant capacity values of juice ranged from 10,001 µM for ‘King’ to 59,821 µM for ‘I11’. Cupric reducing antioxidant capacity values in juice ranged from 7471 µM for ‘Azadi’ to 20,576 µM for ‘Wonderful’ (Georgia). Juice total anthocyanins varied from 1.7 mg·L−1 for ‘R19’ to 50.0 mg·L−1 for ‘Wonderful’ (Georgia). Pomegranate cultivars showed large variability in physical and chemical attributes. Such pomegranate variability represents opportunities for breeding, for the retail market, and for the development of different products by the food industry.
We appreciate the thorough review of the manuscript by Patrick Conner, Savithri Nambeesan, and the anonymous reviewers. We thank the USDA for the financial support through the Croatia Agriculture Research and Educational Exchange grant (grant number: USDA 2009-51160-05465). We appreciate Mr. Don Wade from Alma, GA, and the Georgia Pomegranate Association for the donation of pomegranate fruit. We thank the Georgia Agricultural Experiment Stations for financial support.
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