Introduction to Pomegranates
Discover how to prepare a pomegranate in several different, healthy ways in order to add color, fun and nutrition to meals.
A pomegranate is a fruit that grows on a tree. It is typically red and filled with a light colored membrane and many small dark ‘seeds’. Interestingly, it is those ‘seeds’ that are eaten. They are actually arils filled with juice and a (real) tiny pomegranate seed. The entire aril (“seed”) may be eaten. The light colored membrane is discarded.
The juice of the pomegranate may be found in many commercially prepared beverages, frequently in those promoted as having health benefits. This is because pomegranates are high in potassium, vitamin C and antioxidants.
According to the Pomegranate Council, pomegranates are harvested and shipped when ripe, so what is seen at the supermarket should be ready to be consumed. This is because, according to Purdue University, they cannot ripen off the tree.
The heavier a pomegranate is, the more filled with juice it is. A pomegranate that is purchased should be free of imperfections such as discolorations, bruises or bad spots.
Though pomegranates may be imported year-round, in the United States, the season runs from September through January.
Safe Handling and Storage
Before cutting open any fruit, it is advised that the outer skin or rind be washed thoroughly. The use of a fruit and vegetable wash is an option. Once washed, the pomegranate should be dried well before attempting to cut it open, to help avoid injuries. This is because the round shape of the fruit makes it a bit more difficult to handle while wet.
Purdue University recommends storage for pomegranates at a temperature range of 32 to 41 degrees Fahrenheit, with approximately 80 to 85 percent humidity. Pomegranates should keep for about seven months if stored in this manner.
For some, cutting open a pomegranate is done in much the same way as a grapefruit. It is generally cut in half, around the center, so one half will have the stem.
Another method, recommended by the Pomegranate Council, involves cutting off the stem end of the pomegranate and then cutting it into sections, using the inner membranes as a guide. The sections are then placed in a container of water, and the arils (“seeds”) are gently ‘rolled’ out with the fingers. The pomegranate sections are discarded, and the water and arils are poured into a drainer. The arils then may be eaten as-is or used in any number of recipes.
How to prepare a pomegranate for juicing:
To juice a pomegranate, the fruit is cut in half around the center, and each half is placed on a hand juicer, the same way a piece of citrus fruit would be.
An optional method is to remove the arils (“seeds”) and to place them in a blender. The resulting liquid is then poured through cheesecloth, so only the juice, not the pulp and true seeds are consumed.
It should be noted that pomegranate juice will stain and can be used in a number of natural dye recipes.
Pomegranates can be used in a wide variety of recipes. The Pomegranate Council is just one source of recipes for pomegranates, including their use in appetizers, preserves, entrees, salads, dips and sauces, soups, desserts and of course, beverages.
Pomegranate:Punica granatum L. J. Morton. 1987. p. 352-355. Purdue University. https://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/pomegranate.html
Pomegranates. Pomegranate Council. 2007. https://www.pomegranates.org/techinfo.html
Pomegranate. U.S. Government/CDC. Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pomegranate_01.jpg