Pomegranates are one of my favorite late fall/winter fruits.
I remember when I was a kid, my pop—who ran our family produce business in Bergenfield—would bring them home. My younger brother David and I would take the pomegranates and roll them back and forth to break up the juice from the seed and pod inside. We’d then poke a hole in the skin and drink the rich sweet juice, which was great, but mom would always yell at us for getting the juice on our clothes because the stain would never come out!
So make sure that your clothing is protected when you’re working with or eating pomegranates, but don’t let their spray stop you from indulging in their incredibly juicy, refreshing and nutritious properties this season!
BACK TO THE BEGINNING
Pomegranates likely originated in Persia or Afghanistan but were cultivated from southern Europe to China and Japan for thousands of years. Pomegranates are usually about the size and shape of a large orange and have a thick, smooth, tough skin that’s generally coral red but may range from yellow to purplish-red.
The name pomegranate derives from a Latin word meaning “apple of numerous seeds,” and “numerous” is no understatement. Without a doubt, pomegranates take a fair amount of time and patience to seed and eat, but they’re worth the effort—the scores of small seeds inside are encased in juicy, bright, cranberry-red beads which are incredibly sweet-tart and refreshing. When I first started my TV career on a show called People Are Talking in the late 1980s, I asked my wife Bette to seed a bunch of pomegranates for me to display on air. The folks around the station loved them, but it took her six hours to get enough seeds to fill two bowls! That’s a loving wife for you!
Pomegranates were a prominent figure throughout antiquity, representing a symbol of fertility to the Greeks and an architectural motif to the ancient Hebrews. In addition, pomegranates were often placed in ancient Egyptian tombs, and their scarlet juice was used as both a medicine and a dye for rugs and other textiles.
Pomegranates are a rich source of vitamins K and C, possess several times the antioxidant power of red wine and green tea, fight inflammation, joint pain/arthritis and cancer, are high in fiber, and are believed to help boost memory. So while pomegranate seeds are small, they clearly pack a nutritious punch!
SEASON, SELECTION & STORAGE
Pomegranates are available from October through January/February, making December a great time to get them. For the best chances of a juicy, sweet pomegranate, choose unblemished fruit that’s heavy for its size. The larger the fruit, the better developed and sweeter the flesh inside, but it should always feel heavy in the hand, which means it contains a lot of juice.
Pomegranates can be kept at room temperature for 6-7 days or else refrigerated, where they’ll last for three months or longer if they’re in good condition. Their thick skin protects the juicy flesh inside. Both the seeds and juice can be frozen.
To remove the edible seeds, either score the skin and peel it back or cut the fruit into quarters. Then gently separate the seeds from the white membrane with your fingers, being sure to remove the membrane completely because it’s bitter. Be careful not to get the juice on your clothes because it can ruin them.
However you eat it, a pomegranate requires some time and patience, but I often take a shortcut. I roll the fruit back and forth on the counter, much as I do lemons or limes, or thoroughly massage the whole fruit in my hands to gently crush the pulp and release the juice, always taking care not to break the skin. Then I take a small bite out of the skin and suck the juice out.
Pomegranate seeds can be eaten plain or with a bit of sugar or salt and make a beautiful ruby garnish when sprinkled over fruit or green salads, ice cream, and crepes, as well as over various cooked dishes from omelets to grilled fish. Pomegranate juice is delicious on its own, mixed with other juices, frozen into ice cubes for exotic drinks, or made into sorbet.
Sometimes when I don’t have time to get the seeds out of a pomegranate, I buy the pomegranate seed cups with all the work done for you (my favorite brands of pomegranate arils are Bloom Fresh and POM Wonderful). I know you’ll enjoy the following dish, which combines rich pomegranates with savory salmon to create a healthy and unforgettable entrée.
Recipe by Chef Teresa Ramos; makes 2 servings.
- ¼ cup pomegranate juice
- ¼ cup honey
- 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 salmon filets
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Drizzle of olive oil
- Bloom Fresh Pomegranate Arils for garnish
Preheat oven to bake at 325 degrees. Create the glaze by combining honey, pomegranate juice and balsamic vinegar in a saucepan. After 3-5 minutes, the mixture will start to simmer; heat the saucepan for one additional minute and then remove from heat. Cover and set aside. Season salmon with salt and pepper to taste and place salmon skin side down in a covered aluminum pan, which will sear the fish while retaining the juices, drizzling with the pomegranate glaze. Cook for 8-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the salmon, and garnish with pomegranate arils.
About “Produce Pete” Napolitano
With over 65 years of experience in the produce industry, New Jersey’s own “Produce Pete” Napolitano is a renowned fruit and vegetable expert, author, and TV personality who’s appeared on a highly popular segment on NBC’s Weekend Today in New York, broadcast every Saturday morning for over 28 years. For more information, visit producepete.com.
About Susan Bloom
A regular contributor to New Jersey Monthly and a variety of other well-known local and national publications, Susan Bloom is an award-winning New Jersey-based freelance writer who covers topics ranging from health and lifestyle to business, food and more. She’s collaborated with Produce Pete on a broad range of articles for over a decade.
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