This ancient fruit grows wild in Persia and over central Asia, and some cultivated varieties grow as far north as Samarcand, where the winters are quite severe. In Bible history it was one of the fruits of the promised land, and it entered into the myths and religious ceremonies of the ancient Romans and Greeks. In ancient times its seeds were used for a cooling drink of special value in fevers and for general use in hot weather as is practised at this time. The varieties grown in south Florida and California were introduced from south China and south Spain, and are not much hardier than the orange. If desirable, much hardier varieties of equal size and beauty of fruit can be introduced from central Asia, as Regel says it is grown in Kulja on the 44th parallel of north latitude. In Persia also very large varieties are grown that are almost seedless and of excellent quality. We saw and tested some of these varieties five inches in diameter during the summer of 1882 in the far East.
It is much grown in the Gulf States, Arizona, and California, but the fruit is not commercial, as it is rarely seen in market except where locally grown. But it is superior to the lemon for summer drinks, and the less acid varieties with colored pulp have an agreeable, refreshing flavor, and are recommended by physicians as a tonic. Indeed, it seems a medicinal tree, as the astringent rind is used in medicine and the bark of the root is used as a vermifuge and in dysentery. It is quite easily propagated from hardwood cuttings planted early in the open ground and it layers about as readily as the grape. At the North, double red and yellow varieties are prized for ornamental use in plant-houses and in living-rooms. Where it bears as freely as in the dry climate of Arizona, this handsome fruit might be made commercial if the people were educated to its use as they have been with the lemon.