A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from December 25, 2004
Chinese Apple (for “pomegranate")
Do New Yorkers call it a "Chinese apple" while everyone else calls it a "pomegranate"?

(Dictionary of American Regional English)
Chinese apple n

A pomegranate (Punica granatum).
1980 DARE File NYC (as of 1948), Chinese apple = pomegranate.

I didn't find evidence for this on Google, or the historical New York Times full text database, or the Newspaper Archive database of regional American newspapers.

The pomegranate juice drink is called POM in New York City as is it elsewhere.

Perhaps "Chinese apple" is historical; perhaps people once associated it with Chinatown; perhaps a few grocers had once chose this name to label the item. From my experience, it's a "pomegranate" here.

Posted by Barry Popik
Food/Drink • (24) Comments • Saturday, December 25, 2004 • Permalink


I was born in 1928 New York City, (Manhattan’s East Side-Yorkville) never knew fruit as “pomegranate” until move to Florida in 2003. While I remember eating Chinese apples as child and young person no memory of their being so labeled or sold as such after my return from WWII. Opinion is at least in Manhattan 1930-1950 they were known as Chinese apples. There were Yorkville newspapers and possibly their back copies would indicate commonality of identification Chinese apples.

Posted by Charles Hyer  on  11/08  at  10:40 AM

I was born in NYC in 1944 and lived there until I was six when the family moved to Long Island. I distinctly remember my mother telling me when we did live in the City (not far from Chinatown, by the way) that the fruit I now know as the pomegranate was called a Chinese Apple. Unfortunately when I had asked her about this a few years ago, she had no recollection, but she was in her late eighties, so I’m not surprised.

Posted by Paul Badu  on  12/21  at  01:23 AM

having growen up on the lower eastside of manhattan. i have always called it a chinese apple, as did everyone else that i knew. even though we all knew the correct name.

Posted by dredzz  on  10/15  at  12:06 PM

Growing up in Newark, NJ (that’s across the river from NYC) in the 1950s Chinese apple was the only name I ever heard.  I was in my late teens before pomegranate came into my vocabulary.  I think it was the produce sellers with the horse drawn wagons who called the red fruit with all the seeds “Chinese Apples” When you stop to think about it the skin is sort of a Red-Orange color known as “Chinese Red” and it is easy to see the similarity of shape between the pomegranate and the apple.  By the way tomatoes were once known as “Love Apples” No matter what the fruit is called it tastes the same.

Posted by Rich  on  12/09  at  06:08 PM

I always know it to be a indian apple, not chinese apple.

Posted by Melissa Pickett  on  01/01  at  04:25 AM

I grew up in Brooklyn NY in the 50’s - 70’s and didn’t know what a pomoegranate was until I was in my late teens.  We called them “Chinese Apples”.  We also called the punks that are normally burned and used as insect replellant “Chinese Cigarettes”.  We would get them around the 4th of July and use them to lite our fireworks.  Kids used to walk around with them in their mouthes as if they were smoking them.  My youngest sister was poked in the eye by one when someone turned around and she happened to bet there.

Posted by Darryl  on  02/27  at  05:06 PM

I was raised as a child in Northern New Jersey.  We all called it Chinese Apple in my area.  Did here of Pomegranate until I moved to Florida in 2002.

Posted by Andre  on  11/30  at  08:41 PM

I was raised in New York City and we used to call them Chinese Apples.  Never heard of pomegranate until I moved to Georgia in 2006.  Back in NYC, in the summer,we used to get buy them at the corner store for a dollar and munch on them while playing outside...good timessmile

Posted by Dee Miles  on  12/07  at  06:46 PM

Yes, it is a Pomegranate. The seeds are sort of suspended in a sweet/tart gel within the fruit. I don’t think the peel is edible, but the insides are great. It’s also a fabulous complement to a nice cheese and cracker tray. Some grocery stores carry them, but they are seasonal and not always available. You might fare better at a produce stand. I was able to find them there.
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Posted by sofiya  on  08/11  at  10:36 PM

They were always Chinese Apples to me. I believe they took on the name pomegranate when the P.C Police came to town.

Posted by Cheryl  on  09/12  at  07:15 PM

Yes, it is a Pomegranate. The seeds are sort of suspended in a sweet/tart gel within the fruit. I don’t think the peel is edible, but the insides are great. It’s also a fabulous complement to a nice cheese and cracker tray. Some grocery stores carry them, but they are seasonal and not always available. You might fare better at a produce stand. I was able to find them there.

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Posted by Sandy  on  10/09  at  02:11 AM

my parents grew up in brooklyn and queens, and growing up on LI in the 70s and 80s we had “chinese apples” that I now know are pomegranates. seems like a NYC thing.

Posted by ka  on  10/13  at  10:16 PM

So glad I’m not going crazy at almost aged 70.  We, too, called the Pomegrate “Chinese Apples”.  My father would bring one home now and then near the Holidays for us all to enjoy. I lived in NJ in the 40’s and 50’s and didn’t know them by any other name until much later in life. smile

Posted by Joan  on  11/15  at  08:44 PM

I grew up in Washington, D.C. in the 80’s and 90’s and knew these fruit as Chinese apples. My mom has some pomegrants that I just tried and verified that it’s the same thing.

Posted by Me  on  11/25  at  06:11 PM

I was born in 1946 in the Bronx and grew up there and lived there until I moved to Manhattan in 1972. I only knew the pomegranate as a Chinese apple. In fact I believe I was in my late teens (early 60s) before someone told me what it really is, a pomegranate. I will say I still love them but find the prices outrageous but then what food prices aren’t outrageous these days. Also I don’t remember the pips being as large as they are today. My mom concurs on this last point. Maybe we’re getting inferior pomegranates or older ones. I admit to waiting for the prices to come down, after all.

Posted by Robert  on  12/04  at  12:26 PM

I grew up in NJ in the 50’s and we called this tasty fruit an Indian apple.  I still call it as such with my family, but in public, refer to it as a pomegranate. I’m now wondering if anyone else called this fruit an Indian apple or if it was just my families name for it? I also have friends who call it chinese apples also.

Posted by MaryLee  on  12/14  at  10:41 AM

I attended a middle school in West Harlem, NYC in the early 70’s and remember, during our lunch period, a slew of students running down the block to the corner store to buy the large dill pickles, along with the popular Chinese Apples (what we now know are pomegranates). That was the craze of those days.

Posted by Margaret  on  02/07  at  09:42 PM

I first heard this term “Chinese apple” used when I was exposed to my first experience of the fruit in 1999. To this day I get odd looks when I refer to it as such.

Posted by andrew  on  02/17  at  10:31 PM

I grew up in the Bronx (born in 1943)and didn’t know, until I was a young adult, that it was called a pomegranate.  I just asked my 93 year old mother if she remembered calling it a Chinese apple and she didn’t remember even though her memory is better than mine.  tongue rolleye

Posted by Judy  on  02/21  at  08:33 PM

I was just talking to my mother about this today. And growing up in Brooklyn I always knew them as Chinese apples. It wasn’t until I moved to Texas and saw a bottle of POM juice that I found out that chinese apples are actually pomegranates.

Posted by CeCe  on  03/17  at  02:42 PM

I was born & raised in NYC, and always knew them as Chinese Apples as well, even though I also was aware they were also know as pomegranates. I definitely think it’s a NYC metro area thing, as whenever I have mentioned the name Chinese Apple to people that did not grow up in the area, I get a puzzled look.

Posted by Rich  on  07/08  at  09:09 PM

I was born in Chicago and we called them chinese apples.

Posted by Lisa  on  10/17  at  08:52 PM

I was born in 1940 & spent 20 yrs. in the Richmond section of Philadelphia.  Until a few years ago I always referred to what they now call pomegrantes as chinese apples.  Don’t know how we got to call them that but they were alays “chinese apples to us.

Posted by Ann  on  02/15  at  02:36 PM

All my life I have known what he now call today pomegranate to be Chinese Apples and today I am 46. In fact it wasn’t until about for years ago that I actually learned it wasn’t a chinese apple it was a pomegranate, after arguing that they were not in fact the same fruit, lol. I even researched it just do I would not be wrong. I still call them chinese apples.

Posted by Kudara  on  09/04  at  10:01 PM

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