Pomegranate (Punica granatum) is an ancient fruit native to the Middle East, somewhere between northeast Turkey and Afghanistan. The word pomegranate means “apple with many seeds”.
Pomegranates grow on deciduous shrubs, and nowadays they grow in the Middle East and Africa as well as in Arizona and California. Some shrubs can live up to 200 years.
The pomegranate is a reddish-purple, rounded fruit, with a pointed cap and stem. Fruits can range from anywhere between two to five inches. The exterior is quite hard and thick, and it covers a thin, spongy white pith-like wall.
Anywhere from 150 to 1400 seeds can form, attaching themselves to the wall. The seeds of pomegranates are edible, and they are surrounded by a thin membrane full of sweet, delicious red juice.
The juice of the pomegranate stains fairly indelibly, thanks to the polyphenols. The best way to remove a recent stain on fabric is to quickly soak it in boiling water.
Pomegranates hold an important place in many global religious and cultural mythologies, from Christianity to Hinduism. It is commonly a symbol of fertility, thanks to its many seeds.
Pomegranate is widely available in season. To be sure that it is ripe, choose a fruit that is heavy for its side with firm skin. Don’t worry about scratches on the exterior; they will not affect the fruit’s quality.
How do you eat pomegranate?
There are many ways to dig into a pomegranate. One common practice is to cut the fruit in half and spoon out the seeds into a bowl and enjoy. If you want pristine seeds, the process is a bit more involved.
First, use a sharp knife to cut the cap off. Then, look for the ridges along the skin, which represent the different sections separated by white pith, and score them with your knife.
Finally, peel them apart and use a spoon to hit the peel of the pomegranate, over a bowl. The seeds will, for the most part, fall off.
If you want the seeds to be extra clean, leave them in a bowl of water until the white pieces float up and any splattered juice is removed. When eating pomegranate, most people avoid the rind and the white pith, although they are not toxic.
You can choose whether to eat the entire aril, seed, and all, or whether to spit out the seeds.
Most people eat the seeds straight, either alone, as a garnish, or in salads. Pomegranate juice is very popular, sold on its own or made fresh from the fruit by juicing or pressing through a fine sieve. Pomegranate molasses is a treasured ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine.
What does pomegranate taste like?
The taste can vary slightly depending on the variety of pomegranate, but the fruit is generally sweet with a bit of acidity. It can even be mouth-puckering if one of the more sour varieties is picked unripe, approaching cranberry-level sourness. The taste is similar to sour cherry.
When is pomegranate in season?
Depending on the region, pomegranate has different seasons. Above the equator, the season is from September through February, and specifically from October to January in the United States. In the Southern Hemisphere, the season is from March to May.
Benefits of pomegranate
Eating pomegranates is really good for you. It has an impressive roster of vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds:
- Pomegranates may help fight breast and prostate cancer. In laboratories, pomegranate extract has been shown to slow the development of new cancer cells and even kill off cancer cells. Drinking pomegranate juice also helped to slow the growth of major prostate cancer risk factors by nearly a year. The fruit has much of the same effect on breast cancer cells.
- Pomegranates has loads of anti-inflammatory effects. The ability to reduce inflammation is potent and means that the fruit helps mitigate the factors that lead to serious diseases such as cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease.
- Pomegranates can help maximize sports output. The dietary nitrates in pomegranate have been linked to better performance when exercising. Studies show that pomegranate may enhance blood flow, which keeps you feeling less tired and exercising more efficiently.
- Pomegranates contains powerful antioxidants. Pomegranate juice has three times the antioxidant activity of green tea and red wine. The potent antioxidant is called punicalagin.
- Pomegranates can be good for your heart. The punicic acid in pomegranate is unique. This fatty acid has been shown to be very effective in preventing the gradual development of heart disease. Punicic acid was shown to reduce triglycerides and improve the levels of cholesterol in the blood, reducing bad LDL cholesterol and protecting it from oxidation. To top it off, pomegranate juice can reduce high blood pressure.
- Pomegranates can reduce joint pain. It has been shown to fight enzymes that cause joint damage in people with osteoarthritis. The anti-inflammatory effects of the fruit also have a positive impact on the disease arthritis, which is primarily inflammation related.
- Pomegranate juice can help you in the bedroom. Studies have shown that pomegranate juice’s antioxidant properties help increase blood flow, even to the lower regions of the body.
- Pomegranates has antibacterial properties that keep you healthy. Pomegranate has specific plant compounds that are useful in fighting bacteria and yeast. That means it can help you fight off many different types of disease. Studies have even shown it to be good for infections and inflammations in the mouth, like gingivitis.
- Pomegranates can be good for your memory. Evidence in studies has shown that it can work wonders for memory retention. Both extract and juice have been shown to improve verbal and visual memory.
5 x pomegranate facts
1) Pomegranates are called “the fruit of the dead” in Greek mythology and are believed to have come from Adonis’s blood.
2) India produces the world’s most pomegranates, followed by Iran.
3) November is National Pomegranate Month!
4) Some say that Adam and Eve didn’t eat an apple, they cracked open a pomegranate and feasted on its blood-red seeds.
5) Jewish tradition holds that pomegranates have 613 seeds, the same number of commandments of the Torah. Studies have shown pomegranate seed counts can actually range from 165 to 1370, but when the studies averaged them out, the count was actually 613!