If you haven’t seen them already, these ruby-red seasonal fruits should start showing up at your local stores. Until a few years ago, we really weren’t familiar with pomegranates. We had heard of them, but had never tried them. Quite honestly, they don’t really look that attractive on the outside, but it's definitely what is on the inside that counts!
When we first noticed them at the store, we had no idea what to do with them or what they tasted like. So, we of course took one home and encountered the first challenge…how do we peel it and how do we get all those tiny balls of fruit out without staining everything in sight (including ourselves) in the process?!
Once we figured this out and got our first taste of the juicy, flavor-popping seeds, we were hooked! Whether you are a pomegranate beginner or an expert, there are a few tricks and key things to know that hopefully will help make them even more enjoyable!
What exactly are pomegranates?
Pomegranates are native to a region from Iran to northern India and they also thrive in the drier climates of California and Arizona. The pomegranate name is derived from Latin and one interpretation is “apple with many seeds.” Most of the pomegranates available in the U.S. come from orchards in California -- but they have a short season, typically from October through February. They don't ripen after they are harvested, so they travel and store well. There are about 800 seeds, or “arils,” in an average pomegranate. The seeds taste sweet and a little tart (they are like tiny juice pockets that burst when you eat them!) and are used in a wide variety of dishes and recipes. They are great to enjoy at Thanksgiving and over the holidays! They are also used to make pomegranate juice and the latest trend is to cook them down to make pomegranate molasses. You can even use pomegranates as fall decorations as long as you keep them cool and dry (but it's so much more fun to eat them)!
How do you pick them?
Pomegranates should be a deep red or reddish brown color and feel heavy for their size. Try to avoid bruises, cut marks or soft spots and you should be able to pick a perfect pomegranate.
How do you eat them?
The peel of the pomegranate is actually quite tough so you can cut it with a knife (or score it) to break it open. Then, you need to remove the seeds from the peel and pulp...this can be the tricky part. If you aren’t careful, you can end up with juice everywhere...and it will stain!
How do you get those great-tasting pesky seeds out?
One option is to by pre-seeded pomegranates. Personally, we don’t recommend this for a couple reasons. First, pre-seeded pomegranates can be ridiculously expensive! Also, because the “arils” don’t last very long after they are seeded, they can go bad very quickly…we bought a pre-seeded pomegranate from a local store a couple of years ago and the seeds were mushy and moldy within a couple of days.
Getting the seeds out can be a little tricky, but there are couple ways to make it much easier (and less messy)…
Fill a medium size bowl with water. Place a pomegranate half (or quarter) in the bowl, submerged in the water. Pry the seeds out and let them fall to the bottom of the bowl -- the white pulp will float on the top of the water. Now all you have to do is scoop out the pulp, remove the seeds from the water and repeat for the rest of the fruit.
Cut the pomegranate in half, then use a knife to score (or make small slits) in the outside peel of the pomegranate. Hold the pomegranate over a bowl and beat it with a large spoon - a wooden spoon works well. The seeds will fall into the bowl leaving only a few seeds left to pry out -- but careful, juice will come out too!
How do you store the seeds?
- Eat them very soon! Once a pomegranate is seeded, you need to store them in the refrigerator and eat the seeds within 2-3 days or they will begin to go bad and get moldy.
- Freeze the seeds! Preserve the delicious pomegranate seeds by freezing them -- they will keep frozen for up to a year. Defrosted seeds may seem a little mushy, but will still be fantastic in your recipes.
- Shelf life? Pomegranates (whole and not yet seeded) will store in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks.
Zonya's Take on the Power of Pomegranates:
Many nutritionists (me included!) assign the pomegranate as the top superfood in the fruit category. Its antioxidant capacity tops the charts, and it is high in vitamin C and potassium. Studies with pomegranates appear promising in lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, and atherosclerosis, in addition to reducing risk of breast, prostate and colon cancer. The phytochemicals in this wonder-fruit may also help fight depression and bone-density loss. Enjoy pomegranates fresh October through February, and as juice (4 oz. serving) March through September to provide a constant intake of this beneficial superfood!
Take the Superfood Challenge!
Remember, the challenge is to try pomegranates in different ways - at least once a week for the month of November. Now that you know how to pick them, seed them and store them...here are some great ideas how to enjoy them!
- Pomegranate Pear Salad
- Squash and Chicken Tagine
- Dark Chocolate Bark with Pomegranates and Orange Zest
- Christmas Quinoa Salad
- Winter Fattoush Salad
- Roasted Eggplant with Ricotta and Pomegranates
- Cauliflower and Kale Detox Salad
- Winter Fruit Salad
Just to name a few...consider adding them to your smoothies, oatmeal or on top of your yogurt and granola!
What do YOU do with pomegranates? We would love to hear your tricks and ideas!