Mystic, beautiful, decorative, lucky, nutritious, superfood—these are some of the words used to describe a pomegranate fruit. Here’s everything you need to know about choosing and using pomegranate.
The brilliant ruby red ball has a thick rind on the outside, and spongy white tissue and edible sweet yet tart arils inside. Whole pomegranates are often used as holiday centerpieces, while the citrusy seeds are useful for juicing, cooking, and garnishing.
Pomegranates are low in calories and high in Vitamin C, fiber and potassium. The deep color of the pomegranate comes from its antioxidant content, making it a nutritious snack.
It is no surprise then that pomegranate is one of the most revered fruits in human history. It symbolizes life, joy and fertility across many cultures. At Persian, Greek, and Chinese weddings, pomegranates are often given as gifts to newlyweds. The pomegranate fruit is mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible, and the 613 seeds in each pomegranate coincide with the 613 commandments of the Jewish Torah.
How to Pick a Pomegranate
Fresh whole pomegranates are available at grocery stores across the U.S. typically from October to January. When picking a pomegranate, make sure to feel its weight and skin. It should be heavy (full of juice) and firm to touch. A dark ruby red color is indicate of good quality.
Store the pomegranate at room temperature for several days or freeze the seeds in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
How To Open a Pomegranate Like a Pro
According to POM Wonderful, cutting open a whole pomegranate may seem intimidating, but there are four simple steps to make opening this fruit a breeze:
1. Cut off the top. Do this about a half inch from the crown.
2. Score the fruit. Once you remove the top, four to six sections of the pomegranate divided by white membrane will be visible. Score the skin along each section.
3. Open it up. Carefully pull the pomegranate apart over a bowl of water.
4. Loosen the seeds. Gently pry the arils loose using your thumbs. The plump, juicy seeds will sink to the bottom. Scoop away everything that floats to the top.
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If you don’t want to go through the hassle of opening a pomegranate, you can also purchase peeled and ready-to-eat arils in the produce section of many grocery stores.
How To Squeeze Pomegranate Juice
Pomegranate juice is all the rave, but do you know why? Fresh pomegranate juice contains particularly high amounts of all three types of polyphenols, a potent form of antioxidants. You can buy bottled pomegranate juice or make it yourself at home. California-based Pomegranate Council recommends 3 main methods to get fresh squeezed pomegranate juice.
Juicer Method: Cut the fresh pomegranate in half as you would a grapefruit. Use a hand-press juicer or an electric juicer. Take care not to juice the white membrane, so that the juice remains sweet. Strain the juice through a cheesecloth-lined strainer or sieve to remove the pulp.
Blender Method: Place 1 ½ to 2 cups of pomegranate seeds and some water to a blender. Blend until liquefied. Pour through a cheesecloth-lined strainer or sieve.
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Rolling Method: Place pomegranate pearls in a Ziplock bag and close tight. On a hard surface, press the palm of your hand against a pomegranate and gently roll until crackling stops and all seeds are broken open. Pierce the rind and squeeze out juice, or poke in a straw and press to release the juice.
Drink the fresh juice as is, or refrigerate to use in sangria, pomegranate martini or even homemade pomegranate wine. Reduce the juice with sugar and lemon juice to get viscous pomegranate molasses, to use in sauces, stews and salad dressings.
Ways To Eat Pomegranate
Though pomegranate arils taste great by themselves, they are also used in many food and drink recipes around the world. Start with a pomegranate breakfast smoothie, mix in with granola, top buttermilk pancakes, or have a glass of fresh juice.
This versatile fruit can be incorporated into almost every preparation. Add it to your stuffing and succotash, sprinkle over shrimp salad and brie bites, mix it into meatballs and fudge bars. Whenever you need a sparkle of color and crunch, pomegranate makes a great addition.
Eggplant and pomegranate are a perfect pair in Persian cooking. Top baba ghanoush or eggplant caviar with fresh pomegranate seeds, or roll up fried sliced eggplant with walnuts, mint, and pomegranate to make a classic Georgian appetizer.
Dried crushed pomegranate seed powder (called anardana) is used in Indian cuisine as a souring agent. Sprinkle on chaat (Indian street food), add to chickpeas curry, or concoct a spicy pomegranate chutney.
Chiles en nogada is a festive dish prepared for Mexican Independence Day (September 15th). Meat-stuffed poblano chiles in a white walnut cream sauce, garnished with pomegranate seeds and parsley, resemble the colors of the Mexican flag.
For dessert, switch out apples for a pomegranate crisp, mix arils in with jellies and custard, or sprinkle on a festive chocolate bark. The sweetness of pomegranate naturally pairs well with dark chocolate, so make sure to incorporate into tarts, brownies, and fudge for an added twist of flavor.
No matter what you decide to cook, pomegranate will add more pop to your dish and a nutrition boost.
Check out Chowhound’s pomegranate recipes for more ideas.
Header image courtesy of POM