Friday, February 11, 2011


Up until recently, I'd tasted pomegranate a few times, but had never been much impressed by it. 
The fruit was difficult to extract, it was very messy and stained easily and the bitterness and seeds detracted from the otherwise sweet/ tart fruit. However, Rachael was invited by POM to visit their pomegranate groves near Fresno last October. She came home with some coupons for free pomegranates, showed us how to cut them to extract the fruit, and she started making recipes with pomegranates. After learning more about them, and having eaten quite a few of them, I now love them. I regularly eat a half cup of boiled whole wheat for breakfast mixed with yogurt and I found that adding pomegranate arils to the concoction made it divine. I could eat it every day.

Pomegranates are one of the 1001 Foods You Must Taste Before You Die and they go way back. In Greek mythology, when Persephone was kidnapped by Hades and taken to the underworld as his wife, her mother, Demeter, goddess of the harvest, went into mourning and all green things ceased to grow. Zeus commanded Hades to return Persephone, but Hades tricked her into eating six pomegranate seeds while she was still his prisoner, thus condemning her to spend six months in the underworld each year and the reason for the seasons. In the Hebrew Bible, Exodus 28:33-34, speaking of Aaron's robe, "upon the hem of it thou shalt make pomegranates of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, round about the hem thereof; and bells of gold between them round about: A golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe round about." 
The Spanish word for pomegranate is "granada" and the city of Granada in Spain was named after the fruit during the time of the Moors and the city's coat of arms has a pomegranate on it. The Jews have said that pomegranates have 613 seeds, the number of commandments or mitzvot of the Torah. 
The forbidden fruit eaten by Eve in the Garden of Eden has also been referred to as a pomegranate. Pomegranates are native to Iran and the Himalayas in northern Pakistan and India and are now grown extensively in portions of the Middle East, Asia, southern Europe, California and Arizona. They were introduced to California in 1769 by Spanish settlers.

There are many different varieties of pomegranate and the outer skin can range from yellow to purple (evident from the verse in Exodus), with pink and red being the most common colors. Each pomegranate has about 600 seeds, each surrounded by a watery pulp, called the aril, which can be white to deep red or purple. 
The taste depends on the variety and its ripeness, from very sweet to sour. The sour comes from acidic tannins in the aril juice. The seeds are embedded in a white pulp.
Grenadine syrup is thickened and sweetened pomegranate juice. The name comes from the French word grenade which means pomegranate. It was traditionally used in many Iranian dishes until it was overshadowed by the new world tomato. 
I love the burst that comes from biting into the arils, both because of the physical sensation, kind of like eating caviar, and because of the strong tangy taste that results from the burst. When we visited Istanbul last summer, we found that the best tasting Turkish Delight was pomegranate flavored. 
It is a flavor and a fruit that will be showing up more and more in our dining. Much of the information for this came from Wikipedia.

In the Summer 2011 issue of BYU Magazine there was a poem by Kimberly Johnson, a professor of English, called "Pomegranates" on page 31, which I love, as follows:

Fabulous, red desire! - these
could keep me here forever. Hours
bent at the basin you spent
breaking the casings burnished
and woody, stripping off pulp,
pith, and papery veil to reveal
where they lay in tight rows
snug as eggs in a wasps' nest,
as perennial bulbs beneath ice.

Furious in the windowsill jar,
they glint the glass scarlet, like garnets,
your finger gone scarlet from touching,
juiced in the scratch and ransack.
Flagrant you fumble a few to my lip.

No fruit for romantics, this...the first
sweet thrill, honeyed bacchanal,
wet story of clustered orchards, -
inside, an underworld of stone.

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