Are you a fan of pomegranates or afraid of them? Are you addicted to their sweet-tart, juicy-crunchy arils or baffled by how to even crack into one? For those of you who are fans of these ruby-red jewels, you know how delicious and nutritious they are. But, if you’re a newbie to the pomegranate, put your hesitation aside and be ready to be wowed!
The pomegranate is one of mankind’s oldest fruits. It dates back to 2000 B.C., with some historians putting it in the Garden of Eden in place of the apple. In most cultures, it is a symbol of fertility. The outer covering of the pomegranate can vary from red to reddish-purple and when you open it, you’re met with an inedible white pith that holds the individual red, juicy bits, called arils. Caution must be taken when extracting the arils, as the pomegranate juice will squirt and stain your clothes.
To prevent staining yourself and the kitchen with red juice, try my no-fail method. First, fill a bowl of cold water and place it on the counter or keep it in the sink (whatever you feel more comfortable doing). Next, cut the pomegranate into quarters and place them in the water. With your hands submerged in the water, peel away the pith and coax the arils out. It takes about five minutes to remove all of the arils from the pith. When you are done you will notice that the pith rises to the surface and the arils sink to the bottom of the bowl. Scoop out the pith and drain off the water. Easy and no staining.
Pomegranates are in season from September to January, so right now is a perfect time to pick up a few at your market or farmer’s market. They’re picked ripe, so they’re ready to use when you bring them home. They can be stored at room temperature, away from direct sunlight, but if you don’t plan on using them right away, you should store them in the refrigerator. Choose pomegranates that are heavy for their size (means they’re juicier), and are free of cracks.
Pomegranates are one of the most nutritious fruits available. High in Vitamin C, potassium, and fiber and low in calories, with just 80 per 1/2 cup of arils. They’re an important source of antioxidants, called polyphenols, which can help reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer.
The easiest way to enjoy pomegranates are to eat them out of hand as a snack, sprinkle them into your salad, use them as a topping for your morning Greek yogurt, or as a topping for dessert. They can also be used in a marinade or sauce or as a garnish for any entree.
- Fold pomegranate seeds into your guacamole
- Mix into your pancake batter
- Fold into cous cous or quinoa, along with some chopped green onions, and chopped pistachios (or other nuts)
- Mix into your Thanksgiving stuffing
- Make a pomegranate vinaigrette – in a blender combine 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds, 1/4 cup rice vinegar, and 2 tbs. honey. Slowly add 2 tbs. canola oil. Use over a salad of dark greens, goat cheese, and toasted walnuts or pumpkin seeds.
- Pomegranate syrup – blend 1 cup of pomegranate seeds in a blender. Strain the juice through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. Stir 2 tbs. agave syrup into the pomegranate juice. Place the juice into a sauce pan and heat over medium-low heat until reduced by half. Spoon over anything (pancakes, waffles, roasted chicken or other game, fish, yogurt, or cake).