Florida growers’ interest in pomegranates is on the rise, he said, as evidenced by the more than 5,000 plants he’s distributed to commercial producers and home growers.

“There is considerable buzz,” Castle said.

Cindy and David Weinstein, owners of Green Sea Farms in Hardee County, Fla., were attracted to pomegranates for the fruit’s nutritious qualities and its potential as a high-dollar, niche-crop for small-scale producers. They started helping with Castle’s research after finding out about the project through a local UF/IFAS Extension office and are now growing more than 200 plants.

“We have two acres planted right now,” Cindy Weinstein said. “And hopefully next year we’ll expand that by another two.”

The Weinsteins plan to sell pomegranate fruit and liners, or young plants intended to be replanted by other growers, for later sale to customers.

Pomegranates can be grown for fresh fruit, juice and also for use as an edible ornamental in home and business landscapes.

If production takes off in the state, Castle said consumers could see Florida pomegranates next to California pomegranates in stores as well as the emergence of locally produced pomegranate juice and juice blends.

“If we succeed in producing the fruit like we’re talking about, then there’s a lot of opportunity for anybody interested in the ornamental plant trade, anybody that’s interested in the fresh fruit trade at the local market basis, or even in producing the juice,” he said.

In California, an acre of the crop can bring in more than $5,000 in revenue, and fresh pomegranates sell for up to $2 a fruit.

“It is a very profitable business in California,” he said. “And if we can achieve similar yields, we can sell fresh fruit at similar prices.”