Pomegranates are one of my favorite late fall/winter fruits.
I remember when I was a kid my dad – who ran our family fruit and veg business in Bergenfield – brought them home. My younger brother David and I took the pomegranates and rolled them back and forth to break up the juice from the pit and skin inside. We then poked a hole in the skin and drank the rich sweet juice which was great but mom kept yelling at us for getting the juice on our clothes because the stain never came out!
So make sure your clothes are protected when working with or eating pomegranates, but don’t let their spray stop you from enjoying their incredibly juicy, refreshing and nutritious properties this season!
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Pomegranates probably originated in Persia or Afghanistan, but have been cultivated from southern Europe to China and Japan for thousands of years. Typically the size and shape of a large orange, pomegranates have a thick, smooth, tough skin that is generally coral red but can range from yellow to purple-red.
The name pomegranate derives from a Latin word meaning “apple with numerous seeds,” and “numerous” is no understatement. No doubt pomegranates take a lot of time and patience to sow and eat, but they’re worth the effort—the many tiny seeds inside are surrounded by juicy, bright, cranberry-red pearls that are incredibly sweet and tart and refreshing . When I started my TV career with a show called people talk In the late 1980’s I asked my wife Bette to sow a bouquet of pomegranates for me to feature on the airwaves. People around the station loved her, but it took her six hours to get enough seeds to fill two bowls! That’s a loving wife for you!
Pomegranates were a prominent figure in ancient times, being a symbol of fertility for the Greeks and an architectural motif for the ancient Hebrews. In addition, pomegranates were often buried in ancient Egyptian tombs, and their scarlet juice was used both as medicine and as a dye for carpets and other textiles.
Pomegranates are a rich source of vitamins K and C, have the multiple antioxidant powers of red wine and green tea, fight inflammation, joint pain/arthritis and cancer, are high in fiber and are believed to boost memory. Although pomegranate seeds are small, they clearly pack a nutritious punch!
SEASON, SELECTION & STORAGE
Pomegranates are available from October through January/February, making December a great time to buy them. For the best chance of a juicy, sweet pomegranate, choose pristine fruit that’s heavy for its size. The larger the fruit, the better developed and sweeter the pulp inside, but it should always feel heavy in your hand, meaning there’s a lot of juice in it.
Pomegranates can be kept at room temperature for 6-7 days or refrigerated where they will last three months or more if in good condition. Their thick skin protects the juicy flesh inside. Both the seeds and the juice can be frozen.
To remove the edible seeds, either score and peel the skin or cut the fruit into quarters. Then carefully separate the seeds from the white membrane with your fingers, being careful to remove the membrane completely as it is bitter. Be careful not to get the juice on your clothes as it can ruin them.
However you eat it, a pomegranate takes some time and patience, but I often take a shortcut. I roll the fruit back and forth on the counter, much like lemons or limes, or massage the whole fruit thoroughly in my hands to gently mash the flesh and release the juice, always being careful not to damage the skin. Then I take a small bite out of the skin and suck out the juice.
Eaten on their own or with a little sugar or salt, pomegranate seeds make a beautiful ruby red garnish when sprinkled over fruit or green salads, ice cream and crepes, and over a variety of cooked dishes from omelettes to grilled fish. Pomegranate juice is delicious on its own, mixed with other juices, frozen into ice cubes for exotic beverages, or made into sorbet.
Sometimes when I don’t have time to remove the seeds from a pomegranate, I’ll buy the pomegranate seed cups with all the work done for you (my favorite brands of pomegranate seeds are Bloom Fresh and POM Wonderful). I know you’ll love the following dish, which combines rich pomegranates with hearty salmon to create a healthy and memorable appetizer.
POMEGRANATE GLAZED SALMON
Recipe by Chef Teresa Ramos; makes 2 servings.
- ¼ cup pomegranate juice
- ¼ cup honey
- 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 salmon fillets
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper to taste
- Drizzle olive oil
- Bloom fresh pomegranate seeds for garnish
Preheat oven to bake at 325 degrees. Create the glaze by mixing honey, pomegranate juice, and balsamic vinegar in a saucepan. After 3-5 minutes, the mixture will begin to simmer; Heat the pot for another minute and then remove it from the stove. Cover and set aside. Season the salmon with salt and pepper to taste and place the salmon, skin-side down, in a covered aluminum skillet, which will sear the fish while preserving the juice, and drizzle with the pomegranate glaze. Depending on the thickness of the salmon, cook for 8-15 minutes and garnish with pomegranate seeds.
About “Produce Pete” Napolitano
With over 65 years of experience in the fruit and vegetable industry, New Jersey-based “Produce Pete” Napolitano is a renowned fruit and vegetable expert, author and TV personality who has appeared in a hugely popular segment of NBC weekend today in New York, transmission every Saturday morning for over 28 years. Visit www.producepete.com for more information.
About Susan Bloom
A regular post to New Jersey Monthly and a variety of other well-known local and national publications, Susan Bloom is an award-winning New Jersey-based freelance writer, covering topics from health and lifestyle to business, food and more. She has collaborated with Produce Pete on a wide range of items for over a decade.
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