Passion for Pomegranates

November 8, 2011

by Ann Waterman

I have a theory that the more tedious and time-consuming a food is to eat, the tastier it is. It’s almost like Mother Nature wants you to work for it: think lobster, artichokes, or — one of my favorite fruits that’s readily available at this time of year — pomegranates.

Pomegranates are the current “it” food, and for good reason — they’re chock-full of good-for-you things like micronutrients, fiber, and antioxidants, not to mention they’re delicious and a little bit exotic. They’re also historical, making appearances in the ancient texts and art of many different cultures.

In one of my favorite Greek myths, Persephone, daughter of Demeter, goddess of the harvest, is kidnapped by Hades to live in the Underworld as his wife. Persephone’s release is eventually secured, but before leaving, she’s tricked into eating six pomegranate seeds — food of the Underworld, which binds her to return to Hades for six months of the year, one month for each seed. According to the myth, the earth remained barren for those six months while her mother, Demeter, lamented the separation from her daughter. Spring and fertility returned when mother and daughter were reunited — and that’s how the Greeks explained the coming and passing of the seasons.

Until recently, most people’s only encounter with  pomegranates was  in grenadine, a popular cocktail mixer made from the juice. (If you’ve ever enjoyed a Shirley Temple, you’ve had grenadine.) Now, pomegranates seem to be showing up all over the place — in fruit-juice blends, covered in chocolate, and in personal care products. As a lover of all things pomegranate, this pleases me to no end, but at the end of the day, nothing beats eating a fresh one. If you’ve never had one, though, you may be wondering how exactly to go about eating it.

I like to score mine crosswise from both ends with a knife and pull it apart into quarters. Once inside, you’ll find small, red, jewel-like seeds called arils — this is the stuff you’re trying to get at. Inside the aril is an edible seed, which some people prefer to spit out, but if you do, say farewell to fiber and all those good-for-you micronutrients.

Separating the arils from the pith and skin can take some time, but this is the part I enjoy and actually find relaxing. I like to eat as I go — picking out one aril at a time and savoring it — but if you’ve got enough willpower, you can save the arils and toss them in a salad, make a sauce from them, or simply sprinkle them over some thick Greek yogurt — yum!

Seeding a pomegranate is almost always a messy affair, and the juice stains like nothing else, so be sure to wear an apron.  You can avoid some of the mess by seeding it underwater like this.

What’s your favorite slow-to-eat food?

Images: Ann Waterman

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1 Alissa November 8, 2011 at 1:20 pm

I told someone once that I loved food that took a lot of effort to eat and she thought I was a nut. I started to ask myself if I was indeed a nut but now I totally feel better!

Pomegranates are definitely one of my favorite difficult to eat foods as well as grapefruits and crabs. (Whenever we eat crabs I end up picking out all the meat for me AND my husband. He hates the work and i love it so we are kind of a match made in heaven.)

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Ann Waterman 2 Ann Waterman November 8, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Alissa, my husband is exactly the same — if it’s too much work, he can’t be bothered. I say more for me!

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3 Jen November 8, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Pomegranates always remind me of my first semester of college in California, when a friend picked one off a tree on campus and declared it “good eatin’.” I had never seen one before and I was fascinated — and a bit confused about the fuss, to be honest. I haven’t ever been able to taste much flavor in the arils. For something as beautifully ruby-colored as they, I guess I was expecting something a bit more amazing — something with shazam!

But I give it first place for gorgeousness and sheer coolness of design. Well done, pomegranate.

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Ann Waterman 4 Ann Waterman November 8, 2011 at 1:34 pm

I wonder if you’ve had a properly ripened one. They should be bursting with flavor – tangy, sweet, and oh so juicy. They’re just sour if they’re not ripe.

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5 Kathy November 9, 2011 at 9:36 am

Thank you Ann for introducing me to the pomegranates! I don’t mind the all the fuss getting to the ruby red gems and I love, love, love the flavor. You showed me how to get to the gems and I usually make a mess of my self when I am eating one. But, you know what they say,”You can tell how good something is by how messy it is” or “you can tell how much fun it is by how dirty you get”. By the way, I love your photos.

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Ann Waterman 6 Ann Waterman November 9, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Awww, I’m so glad I was able to introduce you to one of my favorite foods!

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7 Sarah D November 10, 2011 at 9:31 pm

I love a good pomegranate, but I have a devil of a time finding a well-flavored one. Like Jen (no surprise, given we were in the same class!), my first pomegranate were had at college, and most of them were really tasty. Subsequently, I’ve had hit-or-miss luck finding store pomegranates that are flavorful, ripeness regardless (because I know how to spot the ripe ones).

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8 Bruce D. November 16, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Heh — take the easy way out and get the ready to eat pomegranates at Costco. No fuss, no muss, no bother just eat and enjoy. I am not lazy just practical.

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