The pomegranate hails from Persia and is one of the oldest fruits known to man. Historical evidence suggests man first began planting pomegranate trees sometime between 4000-3000 B.C., making pomegranates one of the oldest cultivated fruits. And with its age comes much history too. Early on, pomegranates were considered a royal fruit, revered as a symbol of health, fertility, and rebirth. Some cultures also believed the fruit held profound and mystical healing powers. Pomegranates have been depicted in countless myths, epics and works of art, from Raphael and Cezanne to Homer and Shakespeare.
Pomegranates were introduced to America by the Spanish conquistadors. Despite its’ exotic history and great taste, it’s surprising that this fruit never really caught on in the United States. However, new research into the disease-fighting powers of antioxidants is boosting this fruit to new popularity. Besides being high in vitamin C and potassium, a good source of fiber and low in calories, pomegranates are loaded with three different types of polyphenols, a potent form of antioxidants. As antioxidants, these nutrients are credited with helping in the prevention of many types of cancer and reducing plaque build up in the arteries thereby lowering risk of heart disease.
Pomegranates are quite unique. Slightly sweet. Slightly tart. Inside the crimson-colored fruit you’ll find exactly 840 Arils. These are seeds surrounded by a sac of sweet-tart juice. The arils are held together in layers resembling honeycomb. Simply peel off the arils and pop them in your mouth for a burst of pomegranate goodness. Pomegranates are fun to eat, but do require a little work. For those of us looking for great flavor with “open and enjoy” convenience there several brands of pomegranate juice on the market to quench your thirst and deliver an antioxidant punch.
Age to introduce: Juice: Over 8 months old. Arils: Over 3 years old. The arils (edible part) are a choking hazard for small children.
Kid-Friendly Treat: Treat: Jewels in Snow
Many believe that the gemstone garnet got its name from the pomegranate. The tiny arils of this fruit resemble the garnet’s deep-red color and shape. This recipe mixes the deep-red arils into cottage cheese creating the look of garnets buried in a blanket of snow. Try this simple dish for breakfast. The jewel and snow filling can also be spread onto graham crackers or celery sticks for a crunchy after school snack or meal time side dish.
- ½ cup small curd cottage cheese
- 2 tsp honey
- 2 Tbsp pomegranate arils
- 2 tsp ground pecans (optional)
- 2 slices whole grain toast
Directions: Combine the cottage cheese, honey, and pomegranate arils in a small bowl. Spread the mixture over the toast. Slice the toast into 4 triangles and sprinkle with ground pecans. Serve with apple or peach slices.
Note: Pomegranate arils are a choking hazard for children under 3 years old, so this recipe is best suited to children over this age.
Pomegranates For The Family
At the market: Pomegranates are available fresh from October through January. Pomegranates are picked when ripe, so when you see them in stores they are ready to eat. When selecting a pomegranate, consider that the heavier the fruit is, the juicier it will be.
Pomegranate juice is sold under several brand names. Our personal favorite brand is POM. You’ll find pomegranate juice in the produce or juice sections of the supermarket. Check the label to ensure you are purchasing 100% pomegranate juice.
Storage: Whole fruits can be stored for a month in a cool, dry area or refrigerated up to two months. When frozen, the arils or juice will keep for several months in air-tight containers.
The Art of Eating a Pomegranate: At first glance, the pomegranate appears a bit intimidating. Here’s the quickest way to harvest the arils from the skin:
- Cut off the crown, then cut the pomegranate into sections.
- Place a section in a bowl of water. Using your fingers, gently separate the red arils from the skin. The arils will sink and the white skin will float to the top.
- Discard the skin – it is not edible. Drain the water by pouring the arils through a colander or strainer.
- Note: Pomegranate juice stains fingers, clothes and carpeting. Sitting at the kitchen table or outside is the best place to enjoy pomegranates.
Creative and simple ideas to include Pomegranates into your family meals:
Dressings and marinades: Pomegranate juice has an acidic, citrus-y flavor. It’s a great substitute for citrus in marinades and salad dressings. Simply substitute the same quantity of pomegranate juice in a recipe thats call for orange, lemon, or grapefruit juice. Pomegranate flavor is a great complement to lamb. Here is a simple marinade that is perfect for making lamb kabobs.
Pomegranate marinated lamb kabobs
- 1/2 cup pomegranate juice
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
- 1 tsp dried rosemary or 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder or leg, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
Directions; In a large bowl, whisk together pomegranate juice, oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, rosemary and garlic. Add lamb cubes and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. Thread lamb equally onto bamboo or metal skewers. Place skewers on medium hot BBQ or a lightly greased Grill Pan on medium heat. Cook, turning often until meat is well browned outside, but pink in the center, about 10-15 minutes.
Enjoy a pomegranate soda: Start with tall glass filled with a few ice cubes. Pour sparkling water to 1/2 full. Then fill to the top with 100% pomegranate juice. Garnish with sprig of fresh mint or a lemon twist.
Return of a classic: Many years ago, Grenadine was made from pomegranates. Sadly, bottled versions today are made with artificial flavor and food coloring – no pomegranates at all. To put the pomegranate back into grenadine, make your own at home. It’s easy.
Homemade Grenadine: In a small saucepan, simmer 2 cups of pomegranate juice over medium heat and cook until reduced by half, about 7 minutes. Reduce heat and add 1 cup sugar, stirring constantly until dissolved, about 2 minutes. Let cool. Store in a tightly closed jar or container in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Along with making a great Tequila Sunrise or Shirley Temple, this pomegranate syrup, is a taste treat. Here are some great ways to use this syrup:
- Drizzle over pancakes, waffles or french toast
- Stir into plain yogurt, smoothies or oatmeal
- Pour over frozen yogurt, ice cream or pound cake
Great garnish: Pomegranate arils add a dash of color, flavor and texture to many dishes. Try sprinkling or tossing arils in:
- Guacamole or salsa
- Creamed spinach
- Fried rice
- Salads – green, spinach or fruit
- Brown rice, couscous or quinoa
- Alfredo pasta
Pomegranate-infused BBQ Chicken: Put some zip into store-bought BBQ sauce by combining a ½ cup of pomegranate juice and ½ cup of BBQ sauce in a saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Baste the sauce over a chicken while it’s baking or slather over chicken in the final minutes of grilling.