Floreant Press

Reviews for Pomegranate Roads

A few of the reviews we have received. Visit Events for opportunities to meet author and publisher Barbara Baer as she shares Pomegranate Roads adventures and information on pomegranates.

To hear Barbara Baer, plus a visit from Gregory Levin (in reality, his Russian stand-in in America) click onto KRCB radio, follow links to the podcast for the April, 2007 “A Novel Idea” with interviewer Rosemary Manchester. http://publicbroadcasting.net/krcb/.jukebox?action=featured

Commonweal, May 18, 2007    Click here for PDF copy of article

Chowhound Food Media and News, June, 2007
"Pomegranate Roads: A Soviet Botanist's Exile from Eden" is a fascinating read.

This small paperback chroncles the 40 years of pomegrante research done by Dr. Gregory Levin at a Soviet agricultural station in the Kopet Dag mountians, a botanical Eden just north of the Iranian/Turmentistan border.

Dr Levine presents a fascinating read--not dry "science" stuff at all--about his research from the 60's until the breakup of the USSR ( government funding dried up for the station, and forced the abandonment of his life's work.)

A highly recommended Chowhound summer read. It (sadly) illustrates how the safekeeping of much of our botanical research is at the whim of politics and fate. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/416096

Dale Dougherty, editor, MAKE, Spring 2007
Levin’s life story is about science, not as conducted in a laboratory, but out in the field. “The world should be studied by roaming across it,” he writes.

There is also a nice back story to this book, whose publisher heard about Levin from a BBC broadcast and decided to go find him. She got him to write this book, which you can pick apart to find sadness among its many arils of sweetness.

Miriam Owen, REDWOOD COAST REVIEW, Spring 2007
In the telling of his own life story, Levin tells a history of the Soviet era…I especially enjoyed Levin’s reflections on early people’s use and cultivation of pomegranates...“They prized the delicious pomegranate and conquerors carried the best plants back to their own countries like trophies.”

From Fruit Gardener, Matthew Cobbett, January/February, 2007
Pomegranate Roads enthralls and enlightens. Turkmenistan is not well known, yet Dr. Levin weaves a rich tapestry of its geography and culture, combined with anecdotal observations and description of his travels on foot and horseback through mountain search of the elusive pomegranate dwarf variety or other weird mutations.

Pomegranate Roads is a story of how great adversity can be overcome in the pursuit of scientific knowledge, ultimately leading to achievement of results. Hence the book should appeal both to budding punicologists as well as to those who, like me, have a fascination for the Soviet Union with its attendant bouts of madness. As Dr. Levin repeats in the text: one does not choose one’s times, one just lives in them and dies… Click here for PDF copy of review

From Midwest Book Review, Michael J. Carson, 12/9/06
From the lore of the fruit that tempted Persephone and possibly Adam and Eve, to Levin’s trek across Central Asia and the Trans-Caucasus in search of wild and endangered pomegranates, to tidbits of folklore to health benefits to pharmaceuticals connected to the pomegranate, Pomegranate Roads truly astonishes the reader with the many secrets of a seemingly ordinary edible fruit. A handful of black-and white photographs and an inset section of color plates illustrate this one-of-a-kind celebration of the pomegranate, written as much for lay readers as for fellow botanists. For complete review, www.midwestbookreview.com

The Southern Fruit Fellowship, Editor’s comment, 12/06
“I believe Gregory Levin’s book will answer any questions you could possibly think of concerning pomegranates…I am happy to report that these Central Asian pomegranates are growing very well throughout the deep south.

David Silverstein, San Diego chapter, California Rare Fruit Growers, 12/06
Last month’s newsletter mentioned the book, “Pomegranate Roads” which has just come out. It was put together from interviews and unpublished materials from Dr. Gregory Levin. Dr. Levin is the Russian botanist who built the huge Pomegranate collection at the Turkmenistan Experiment Station in Garagala. From the 1960s through the fall of the Soviet Union he collected well over 1000 varieties of Pomegranate, not to mention stone fruits, grapes and nuts indigenous to central Asia. And the whole collection has basically been sacrificed at this point by the myopic dictatorship that runs independent post-Soviet Turkemistan. It is a tragedy, mitigated somewhat by the varieties that Dr. Levin placed with the USDA germplasm repository system. He is the one responsible for the bulk of the pomegranate varieties in the collection of the USDA’s pomegranate Germplasm collection. (We, the CRFG, are now a vital link in maintaining those varieties.)

The book is full of fascinating Pomegranate and other botanical lore. But it is a memoir primarily. The lore is all set against the ferocious tragedy that is 20th century history, especially as experienced from inside the former Soviet Union. Oh the humanity! As I put it: I came for the Pomegranate botany, but stayed for the human story. I recommend the book.

Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views, 9/06
Pomegranate Roads: A Soviet Botanist's Exile from Eden

Gregory M. Levin
Floreant Press (2006)
ISBN 0964949768

Dr. Gregory M. Levin is a Soviet botanist who devoted his entire life to the amazing pomegranate plants, which are relatively unknown in USA. His book, “Pomegranate Roads,” is one part memoir, one part botanical lesson and one part fantastic commentary on the state of affairs in former USSR as well as the newly freed Turkmenistan.

His story begins with his childhood years, which he spent in the famous city of Leningrad during a German siege. The matter-of-fact descriptions of the suffering the people of Leningrad endured are chilling, yet they make it probably easier to understand how he was willing to accept just about any kind of conditions later in life, as long as he was permitted to follow his passion for the pomegranates. Reading about his treks across Central Asia and the Trans-Caucasus over more than forty years, many times on foot for days, many times in truly horrible conditions makes one really admire Dr. Levin’s determination and dedication. Intertwined with the story of the pomegranates are many words of wisdom, written in a deceptively simple form. Despite so many trials his spirit was never broken, as one can clearly see from his words in the last chapter, “I am not sorry about anything. It does not make sense to be sorry about the things that did not happen and are gone. I will not change. [….] It’s written that the loss of youth is the heaviest of trials, and that the life becomes a sum of losses. I don’t like to believe this. As always, I live thinking about tomorrow and new things.” Once USSR fell apart, the conditions at Dr. Levin’s research facility rapidly deteriorated and in the end he was forced into exile. He moved to Israel and had to leave behind his collection of 1,117 pomegranate plants. It is hard to even begin to imagine how excruciating it must have been to leave behind so much work and time investment, so much passion and so much caring.

Dr. Levin touches on all aspects of the pomegranate, from the simple description of the plant, the fruit, the areas where they grow and the description of the propagating of the plants to the history, art and culinary uses as well as the medicinal use of this enchanting globe. You will even learn how to make pomegranate juice, wine and liqueur. If you are anything like me, you’ll be dashing to the nearest grocery store to buy a pomegranate and enjoy the pleasure of breaking its thick, leathery, bitter skin just to get to the brilliant, glistening, red seeds with their tangy-sweet explosion of flavor.

Complementing Dr. Levin’s writing are a number of photographs and 11 color plates, some with absolutely beautiful pomegranate art, pretty enough to be framed.

Dr. Levin’s writing never gets too scientific to be enjoyable and I would highly recommend “Pomegranate Roads” to anybody who is interested in research, history or horticulture as well as any lover of memoirs.

Working: Making book with Barbara Baer, George Snyder, Sonoma West Times & News 9/2/06
Forestville—It may seem incongruous, but for the independent Forestville book publisher Barbara Baer, the world’s last wild pomegranates and the area’s small book publishers inhabit the same sinking boat—both are increasingly rare and endangered species, and for basically the same reasons—globalization and the corporate trend toward market standardization….Her latest book is the result of a life-long love for pomegranates as well as her Central Asian experience working in the then Soviet Union in Tashkent in Uzbekistan. ..”This was the most interesting and the most challenging project,” Baer said. “But there was just something about Dr. Levin that I had to be part of.”

Floreant Press Goes International. Sara Peyton, Book People, The Press Democrat, 8/27/06
In 2001, a radio interview with a Russian-born plant botanist planted the seed for Forestville publisher and writer Barbara Baer’s latest venture. “I felt that more than chance had carried Dr. Gregory Levin’s voice from Turkmenistan to may car radio,” she says about learning that neglect, grazing and drought threatened acres of wild pomegranates in Turkmenistan and the government refused to help. “To my ears, Levin had been delivering a personal plea—an invitation for me to visit the last wild pomegranates.”

Stanford Alumuni News, November 2006: The Fruit of Her Labor, Sara Peyton