The exotic pomegranate brings a bit of vibrancy to the produce section of your grocery store in fall and winter. Native to Iran and Iraq, the fruit is prized worldwide for both its seeds and the juice they produce.
Anatomy of a Pomegranate
Every pomegranate contains hundreds of small seeds called arils, each surrounded by a sac of sweet-tart juice contained by a thin skin. The seeds cluster around the core in a layer resembling a honeycomb. The paper-thin white membranes have a high tannic acid content and taste too bitter to eat, though they are often incorporated into skin care products for their ability to treat dry skin and age spots.
Pomegranate seeds appear in a wide range of dishes from salads to desserts, but you can simply eat the seeds on their own. Enjoy the fresh fruit by first chewing on the seeds to release the juice from the sacs, then swallow seeds. The seeds provide roughage to help with digestion. Alternatively, you can also chew the seeds to release the juice, then spit them out.
To easily remove the seeds, roll the pomegranate on a hard surface while you press down on it with your palm. Then score the skin around the fruit's equator and pull it apart into halves with your hands. Hold one of the halves cut-side down over a bowl and rap on the back of it with a wooden spoon, rolling pin, or meat mallet. Squeeze the fruit gently as you do so the seeds fall out into the bowl. This method does result in juice splatters, so you may want to do it in the kitchen sink.
Pomegranate seeds not only provide a beautiful shock of color as a garnish but also offer an unexpected texture and flavor in recipes. Add the arils to cocktails, toss them into salads, sprinkle them onto crostini or puree them into a dip. Surprisingly, pomegranates pair nicely with olives—you can explore endless options when it comes to cooking with pomegranate seeds. In India, the dried seeds are ground into a powder for use in meat dishes.
You can use a few methods to extract the juice from the seeds. The simplest and best for instant gratification is to vigorously roll the fruit on a hard surface to break the juice sacs. When the fruit feels soft, puncture the end, insert a straw, and suck out the juice, squeezing as you go.
You can also pulse the seeds in a food processor, then strain the juice from the resulting pulp, or put them through a food mill. For a low-tech method, scoop the seeds into a plastic zip-top bag and crush them with a rolling pin. Snip a corner of the bag to drain the juice out.
Full of antioxidants, one pomegranate contains 50 percent of the RDA for vitamin C. Clinical trials also indicate their potential for reducing heart problems, preventing cancers and osteoarthritis, treating anemia and controlling diabetes.