Quick Primer on Pomegranates


I've been purposefully puzzling over pomegranates recently, and here's why. Aside from the obvious lure of alliterative potential, it struck me a week or so ago that pomegranates fit into the vague but awfully broad category of "things I love, yet don't take the time to really get to know or understand, for whatever reason". I've decided that list should be attenuated, and I'm starting, for now, with pomegranates. A couple of weeks ago, I posted about seasonal foods for winter, including the gorgeous, gem-filled pomegranate. That same day, Christina posed a challenge that made me feel honestly giggly with anticipation, asking for some recipe ideas outside of sprinkling in salads and over yogurt. The next day, my friend Jess stumped me and unwittingly slowed the progress of project pomegranate, asking where pomegranates come from. And I realized I didn't know. How very naive, writing about how something is "in season"...but who knows where? I'd hardly feel good about piling pomegranates in my shopping cart if they'd flown here all the way from, say, Taiwan. I had to pick up a few groceries the following day, and felt a swell of relief when I saw a bin out front just brimming with pomegranates, labeled "California". I've since learned that pomegranates are drought tolerant, in season in the northern hemisphere September through February, and widely cultivated.

The name "pomegranate" is derived from Middle French, literally meaning "seeded apple". The edible fruit of the ornamental pomegranate tree is actually a berry, and is rather distinguished in its parts. The top, for instance, is known as "the crown"; this is our starting point for cutting. The ruby red, tantalizing seeds are known as arils, and are worth the while it takes to separate from the peel and pulp membranes. You'll save yourself time, effort, and edible arils with a few simple techniques I've only just learned about:

1) First, think over your work space (and clothes) bearing in mind that pomegranates really stain, much like red wine. Plan accordingly.

2) Cut through the crown of your fruit, nearly halfway through. Separate the rest with your fingers. Working over a large bowl will help catch drips and loose seeds. *Quick tip: if your bowl is partially filled with water, your seeds will sink, but your pulp and fleshy bits will float, becoming easy to scoop and discard.

3) Taking your two halves, cut each in half, again working from the crown and cutting about halfway through, then separating by hand.

4) Separate the seeds from the membranes, and enjoy! They're hard to resist right away, but will keep in an airtight container for 2-3 days.

That's all for now, but more soon. While getting to know this symbol of prosperity a little better, I've been doing the usual salad and yogurt sprinkling. I've come across some amazing and intriguing sounding recipes I want to try, however, from brownies to vinaigrettes, even a tapenade with olives (?). If you're itching to experiment in the meantime, here's a link to a list of incredibly compelling recipe links compiled by Elise at Simply Recipes, too.  Enjoy!



Wendy McMillan5 Comments