Pomegranates are small to medium-sized fruits, averaging 6 to 13 centimeters in diameter, and have a round, block-like appearance with faintly squared shoulders and a multi-pointed calyx at the top of the fruit. The skin, also known as the exocarp, is firm, leathery, tough, thick, and shiny, ranging in color from dark red, white, yellow, pink to dark purple, almost black. Underneath the surface, thick, spongy, and fibrous white membranes, or the mesocarp, encase many small, tightly compacted seeds into multiple chambers. Each seed is generally red or white, angular, and hard or soft, contributing a crunchy consistency, and is enveloped in a translucent, fleshy coating known as the aril. The translucent aril is lightly pigmented with a red, white, or pale pink hue, depending on the variety, and contains flavorful juice. Pomegranates should feel heavy for their size, and the surface can be easily scratched when ripe. The seeds and arils are the only portions of the fruit consumed, contributing a sweet-tart taste with tangy, fruity, and mildly acidic notes combined with rhubarb, cranberry, grape, and red currant nuances.
Pomegranates are available in late fall through winter.
Pomegranates, botanically classified as Punica granatum, are ancient, sweet-tart fruits belonging to the Lythraceae family. The name Pomegranate is derived from the Latin words “pomum granatum,” meaning “apple with many seeds,” and is a descriptor used to showcase the fruit’s unique edible seeds. Pomegranates grow on small trees or shrubs ranging from 6 to 10 meters in height, and there are over 500 different cultivars grown worldwide. Red Pomegranates are the most recognized and commercially cultivated types, but Pomegranates can also be found in pink, white, yellow, and purple hues. Throughout history, Pomegranates have been used as a nutritious food and hydration source and are deeply intertwined into the cultural practices of many civilizations, seen as a symbol of life, fertility, sanctity, and vitality. In the modern-day, the seeds are consumed worldwide in both fresh and cooked preparations, favored for their sweet and tangy flavor and pigmented juice. Each Pomegranate can contain anywhere from 200 to 1,400 seeds.
Pomegranates are an excellent source of vitamin K to assist in faster wound healing, vitamin C to strengthen the immune system, fiber to regulate the digestive tract, and folate to develop red blood cells. The fruits also contain potassium to balance fluid levels within the body, manganese to maintain a healthy nervous system, and antioxidants, including punicalagin, that protect the cells against free radical damage and reduce inflammation.
Pomegranate seeds are entirely edible, well suited for both fresh and cooked preparations. The seeds can be extracted from the fibrous rind by slicing and breaking the fruit into 4 to 5 pieces. Once broken, the pieces can be submerged in water, separating the seeds from the bitter membranes, or the seeds can be collected by hand over a bowl. It is important to note that the pigmented juice will stain clothing, hands, and some countertop surfaces. Pomegranate seeds can be consumed straight, out of hand, or the seeds can be tossed into salads, sprinkled over grain bowls, stirred into yogurt, or used as an edible garnish over soups, roasted meats, and desserts. The seeds can also be blended into smoothies, pureed into salsa, dips, and relishes, or pressed into fresh juice. In addition to consuming the juice straight, Pomegranate juice can be used to flavor sauces for roasted meats, salad dressings, or desserts such as cheesecake, parfaits, tarts, crisps, mousses, and brownies. The juice can also be simmered into jelly or stirred into cocktails, sangria, sparkling beverages, and juice blends. Grenadine syrup is often flavored with Pomegranate juice, and the liquid is sometimes reduced to make Pomegranate vinegar or Pomegranate molasses. Pomegranate seeds pair well with nuts such as walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, and cashews, meats including lamb, pork, and poultry, spices such as cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, and clove, parsley, fruits including apples, pears, grapefruits, oranges, coconuts, and lemons, dark chocolate, and feta cheese. Whole Pomegranates can be kept at room temperature for a couple of days, or they can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 months. Once opened, the seeds should be stored in a sealed container for 3 to 5 days. The fruits can also be frozen for extended use.