Pomegranate: Ancient Wonder Gets its Groove Back

Pomegranate is one of the oldest known fruits and has been revered for centuries, making appearances in Egyptian and Greek mythology, and the Bible and Torah. For such a noble fruit, it’s surprising how few Americans enjoy it in its whole, natural form. Now that the California Pomegranate season has begun, Frieda’s Specialty Produce hopes to encourage more people to pick up one of these fresh garnet delights at their local supermarket produce department.

Inside the Pomegranate’s leathery skin you will find myriad tiny, edible seeds encapsulated in ruby-colored tangy-sweet juice (arils), nestled among thin white membranes. The flavor is bright and refreshing with that pop-in-your-mouth sweet-tart quality. Pomegranate arils can be enjoyed out of hand, sprinkled on salads and desserts, or made into juice for a variety of uses.

Pomegranate lore spans history, from art to literature to religious texts, where the fruit is a symbol of health and fertility. Today, the fruit is a popular ingredient in a variety of cuisines around the globe, from the Middle East and Mediterranean to India and Asia. And for good reason: The Pomegranate is delicious (and good for you)!

The easiest way to enjoy whole Pomegranate? First, begin by slicing off the “crown” of the fruit. Then take your knife and score the skin into sections (Do not cut into the fruit, as you will pierce the arils and create a bit of a mess. Also, white shirts not recommended!). Next, gently pull apart the skin over a bowl of water. Carefully remove the arils from the nooks in the membrane. They arils will sink and the membrane and skin will float. Then, simply discard the floating pieces, strain the arils, and enjoy the delicious crisp, juicy, sweet, tanginess that is Pomegranate!

Select a fruit that feels heavy for its size – promising juicier, plumper arils (the delicious crunchy seeds enclosed in juice-filled sacs). Whole Pomegranates will keep for up to 3 months in the refrigerator. Once the arils have been removed, you can also freeze them for up to three months, if stored in a tightly packed, air-tight container.

While spending decades as a “decorative” holiday fruit in the U.S., Pomegranate has recently received some of the credit it is due, thanks to its nutritional properties and the successful marketing of its juice. In fact, the ancient Pomegranate is now uber trendy, being called a “super fruit” for its high levels of antioxidants and recent studies on its ability to improve blood flow and fight inflammation.

Yes, store-bought pomegranate juice is easy and good, but if you’ve never explored the natural beauty, texture and flavor of this most ancient and wonderful fruits, now is your chance! So, head over to your supermarket’s produce department and pick up a tasty piece of world history. (Also available online.)

More Pomegranate Factoids:

* The fruit originated in Persia and spread to Asia, Europe and eventually the North America.

* The Pomegranate’s name was derived from the Middle French term, Pomme Garnete, which means “seeded apple.”

* In Jewish tradition, the Pomegranate is a symbol of righteousness because it is believed to have 613 seeds, corresponding with the 613 commandments of the Torah (which is why the fruit is often eaten during Rosh Hashanah/Jewish New Year).

* Some historians believe that Eve gave Adam a Pomegranate in the Biblical Garden of Eden.

* In Spanish, the fruit is called Granada, and in French, it’s called la Grenade. In fact, the weapon by this name was named after the fruit.

* Grenadine, the fruity red syrup used in cocktails was originally made with Pomegranate juice.

* The rind was used by ancient Romans as a form of leather and the juices were used for a fabric dye.

* The Pomegranate was featured in Catherine of Aragon’s (Henry VIII’s first wife) coat of arms.

* Shakespeare and Homer both wrote about the fruit.

Got any Pomegranate recipes you’d like to share?