I freely admit that I am hooked on pomegranates. When the summer fruits are disappearing from our shelves (or tend to be pretty much taste-free), the pomegranate is a brilliant substitution. It has so much to commend it – pretty crimson seeds (or arils) which are bursting with juice and goodness and a welcome touch of sweetness to so many sweet and savoury dishes.
My mother used to give my sister and I a pin to pick out the seeds (one by one!) of a pomegranate. This used to keep us quiet for what seemed like hours. Probably not allowed these days – giving a sharp implement to young kids. But we survived, even if we got temporarily stained by the deep red juice and looked like we needed a trip to A&E.
Like several other exotic fruits and vegetables, pomegranates are considered by many to be a superfood. With the discovery that the fresh juice contains higher quantities of heart-healthy antioxidants than green tea, juice from this southern Mediterranean globe is now a regular feature of every supermarket. The fruit has exceptionally high levels of polyphenols – antioxidants that prevent free radical damage by limiting the build-up of plaque in arteries. Eating pomegranates can lower blood pressure and, according to some, slow down the ageing process.
Pomegranates grow on small shrub-like trees and are native to the Middle East, but they will thrive anywhere that’s temperate and sunny. The southern Mediterranean season for pomegranates begins in July/August but, because of its thick skin, the fruit keeps well and is also available through early winter.
Heavy pomegranates are best – the weight signifies how juicy its seeds will be. The skin varies from bright to brownish red, but should be glossy and the deeper the colour, the better it will taste.
Unripe pomegranates are round, like apples. As they ripen however, they have more of a square shape as the juice-filled seeds begin to expand outward and press against the rind. Pomegranates should feel hard, with no bruised or soft areas and the rind should be soft enough to scratch. Unripe fruits have very hard rinds that cannot be scratched.
Before deseeding your pomegranate, it’s best to pop on an apron and have an ecloth handy! A handy tip is to deseed over a medium size bowl filled with water – the seeds are heavier than the white membrane so they sink to the bottom and the membrane floats which makes it easier to discard. While submerged in the water, hold the pomegranate quarter with one hand, and run the thumb of your other hand around the clumps of seeds. Alternatively, cut the fruit in two, hold a half cut side down over a bowl and bash the skin several times with the back of a wooden spoon. The seeds will drop into the bowl.
How to store Refrigerating your whole pomegranate (rather than leaving it in your fruit bowl) will keep it fresher for longer. Up to two months apparently, although I’ve never tried that myself. Once you have removed the seeds, seal them in a container or plastic bag and either a) keep them in the fridge for five days or b) freeze them and eat within a year.
Check out all our pomegranate recipes here