Prep Time: 10-15 minutes, give or take
Cook Time: You choose!
The Pomegranate: Superfood
My oldest daughter has moved home from Europe and is spending a couple of weeks with us. Another foodie in the house! Delicious foods that I often pass over because they take more time to prepare than I’m willing to bestow on the kitchen gods, flow through he door with abandon. She loves to cook; my husband does not. Another pair of hands in the kitchen has nudged our daily menu to a whole new level. We shop, then plan what we’re going to eat based on the plethora of riches the local markets yield. I was delighted when I found pomegranates.
Where I live pomegranate season is September to February. They are an ancient fruit, thought to have originated in Persia, now modern Iran. It takes a little work to remove the seed sacs from the membrane, and though I love them, I often look at them as a time indulgence. The membrane that holds the little sacs is astringent, and can mar the flavor of the fruit. The seed sacs must be separated from the bitter, white membrane.
When selecting a pomegranate, choose fruits that feel heavy for their size and have a shiny skin, with no cracks. To prepare your pomegranate, first score the crown with a knife. Remove the top along with some of the pith. Next, score the skin into quarters. Gently break the pomegranate open above a bowl of water, separating the membrane from the seed sacs. The little seed sacs, or casings are called arils. The edible arils will sink to the bottom and the inedible parts will float. The seeds inside the little casing are edible, and are a good source of fiber.
*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.
We love to eat them as they are, but they are delicious sprinkled on a salad, or desserts. I also run them through my food mill to separate the seeds from their juice, and then use the juice for sauces, marinades or salad dressings. Pomegranate juice also makes tasty martini, if you’re so inclined.
Every part of the pomegranate has been used in natural medicine since the beginning of ancient Ayurveda. The seeds, specifically have been used as a heart tonic. Western medical research is showing promising heart health benefits as well. The explanation are compounds found only in pomegranates, called Punicaligins. I always find the connection between natural medicine, which has been around since ancient times, and modern medicine, intriguing. Research suggests that ingesting an ounce or two of pomegranate juice per day may improve cardiovascular health by reducing LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) and lowering blood pressure.
Pomegranates are phytochemical powerhouses that contain 2-3 times the antioxidant value of green tea. Nutritionally 1/2 cup of the little arils, the seed sacs, contain 72 calories, 1 gram of fat, no cholesterol, 3 mg of sodium, 205 mg of potassium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 3.5 grams of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, 1.4 grams of protein, 14% of vitamin C, about 18% of vitamin K and 5% of B6.