Pomegranates begin to appear at the grocers in late autumn at prices that make purchasing in quantity appealing. The question for many people is ‘what the heck do I do with them?’ You’ve seen the arils (the seed is inside the fleshy red aril) in salads and bottles of POM juice in stores, maybe even had grenadine syrup in a drink. There are so many uses for the delicious seeds of this fruit, it is well worth it to take the time to get to know them.
The pomegranate (Punica granatum) has been a feature of middle eastern cooking for generations, being native to Iran and northern India and cultivated in areas west. It grows on a woody shrub, producing a fruit that has an inedible rind and honeycomb type membrane surrounding the juicy red arils. Some sources claim all fruits have exactly 840 arils, however this is an urban myth. Poms must be picked when ready to market because it doesn’t continue ripening or respond to gasses to encourage that sort of thing as do tomatoes or citrus. When shopping for pomegranates select fruits that are round, plump and heavy for their size with no cuts, and store them in the refrigerator up to two months.
Pomegranates are an excellent source of Vitamin C as well as having potassium and Vitamin B5 which accounts for its reputation as a superfood. (Rant: What is it with this SuperFood stuff? If a food is a natural source of nutrients, suddenly it has extraordinary powers? What kind of Dr. Evil foods are people eating that they need a SuperFood?). Poms also have 19g of carbohydrates and 14g of sugar for every 100g of fruit so keep that in mind if comparing fruit choices and are watching your sugar intake.
I brought one home: now what?
I’ve tried different methods of getting the delicious fruit out of the pomegranate: Cutting it across the equator, from the ‘crown’ to the base, pulling apart under water, and whacking with the back of a wooden spoon. All of these things work with varying degrees of success and mess, but recently I came across another method that keeps the juiciness in the fruit and avoids the destruction of seeds–there always seems to be collateral damage from cutting through the pomegranate. I give you this Youtube video below that involves cutting out the crown, slicing the base, then scoring into sections that are pulled apart. If your objective is eating the arils whole and keeping your shirt clean, this is great:
What else can I do besides eat the seeds?
Once the arils are released from the membrane, they can be added to salads, blended into pom juice, or used to prepare pomegranate molasses. If you heat the fruit the benefit of Vitamin C is lost–just saying. That being said, my favourite use for pomegranates is juicing and then making molasses.
- 4 cups pomegranate juice
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (only fresh!)
- Place all ingredients in saucepan and stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking until reduced to a syrup (about 1 hour). One thing to note is it will thicken in the refrigerator so you're looking for a consistency of maple syrup rather than 'molasses'.
- Remove from heat and cool, then transfer to glass jar and store in refrigerator for up to 6 months.
- Pomegranate juice? If you're not using bottled POM, then following the instructions, release all those gorgeous seeds, dump them in a blender and blend for a minute until foaming. Pour into sieve set over a large bowl and stir & press pulp until it's almost dry and juice no longer drips. Go ahead and drink it or use in this recipe. One pomegranate will give 1/2 to 3/4 cup of juice.