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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