Week 44: Pomegranates
The word pomegranate means “apple with many seeds”. No other fruit has the architecture of a pomegranate with the numerous seeds all bunched together in a large random cluster separated by creamy white membranes. Only the seeds are edible. An average pomegranate contains about 600 juicy seeds.
Pomegranates most likely originated in southwestern Asia. It’s juice has been consumed for nearly five thousand years. Early Persians claimed that it had immortal properties and in China it was a symbol of longevity.
Pomegranates are now grown in warmer subtropical regions where they require a very hot and dry climate to ripen fully. In the US their production is concentrated in the Central Valley of California.
Nutrient profile: Pomegranates are an excellent source of fiber, vitamin K and vitamin C. They are a rich source of antioxidants that include polyphenols and isoflavones. Their amount of antioxidants is greater than that found in blueberries and cranberries. They are a very good source of folate, thiamin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, potassium, copper, manganese and phosphorus.
Anti-inflammatory activity: The anti-inflammatory properties that may protect against cancer and other chronic diseases are due to the presence of polyphenols and vitamin C.
Anti-cancer activities: Laboratory studies have shown that extracts of pomegranate fruit slow the reproduction of cancer cells and may help reduce the blood supply to tumors thus causing them to shrink.
Heart disease benefits: Animal studies have found that pomegranate juice slowed the growth of plaque formation in mice with atherosclerosis and that it also may improve blood flow and prevent arteries from becoming thick and stiff. This is preliminary and has not been confirmed in humans.
Selection and Storage: Pomegranates do not ripen after they are picked. In addition, they give no external clues to their ripeness so you have to trust the grower’s judgement. Choose fruit that is heavy for its size, it will likely have more seeds and less membrane. Don’t buy pomegranates with cuts or holes in the skin. At room temperature they will keep for up to a week and in the refrigerator for several weeks.
Extracting pomegranate seeds:
Here is a wonderful video from Pamela Salzman showing how to extract pomegranate seeds.
It is easiest to cut the fruit in half or in quarters with a sharp knife and then immerse the various pieces in a bowl of water. One by one, break the pieces apart, bending the skin side of the pieces inside out, opening up the membranes and expelling the seeds into the bowl of water. The white membranes and skin will float to the top of the water, discard these, the seeds will remain on the bottom. Collect the seeds in a strainer.
Juicing pomegranates: There are several ways to juice a pomegranate but keep in mind that the white membranes are very tannic and bitter and you may want to minimize its contribution to the final product. One way of juicing is to put all the seeds that were extracted (as above) in a blender, then strain the juice through a fine strainer.
This is a wonderful recipe for an Autumn Harvest Salad from The True Food Kitchen Restaurant. You will LOVE this, I promise!