Like olives and figs, pomegranates have their roots in ancient civilizations where they’ve been cultivated and celebrated for thousands of years. The near-round, softball-sized fruits have a tough, leathery rind; inside hides a treasure trove of juicy, edible seeds that glisten like rubies.
Pomegranates strike a perfect flavor balance between sweet and tart. The slight astringency of their juice and seeds has long been prized in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Indian cooking. The juice can be used as a base for both sweet and savory dishes, while the multitudinous seeds (about 600 in a large pomegranate) add juicy crunch and glorious crimson color to everything from salads to couscous. (But be careful — pomegranate juice stains instantly!)
Why choose organic pomegranates?
Choose organic whenever you can to help keep the residues of conventional agricultural pesticides and fertilizers out of your food. Organic produce is grown without toxic synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, using sustainable farming methods that protect the environment and help keep pesticides out of our soil, air, water and food supply. Organic food is the healthiest choice for people and the planet — and we think it tastes better, too!
How to select and store pomegranates
- Look for large, heavy fruit with a rind that’s shiny, firm to the touch, and free of blemishes or soft spots. The larger the pomegranate, the juicier it will be and the more seeds it will contain.
- A pomegranate’s rind can range from pink to red to burgundy — color indicates variety, not ripeness. There are many varieties of pomegranates, including Wonderful, which is the most widely available type in the US.
- Store whole pomegranates at room temperature for 1 week or in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Pomegranate seeds can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.
Tips for using pomegranates
- To free the seeds from the rind and membranes, use the “underwater technique.” Fill a deep bowl with cold water. Cut off the crown (calyx) end of the pomegranate and score the rind in several places, from top to bottom. Submerge the fruit in the water and carefully break the sections apart along the score lines. Gently pry out the seeds with your fingers, separating them from the membranes. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the spongy membranes will float to the surface. Drain the seeds and pat them dry gently with paper towels.
- To juice a pomegranate, roll the whole unpeeled fruit on a counter, pressing firmly with the palm of your hand to break up the juice sacs. Then poke a hole in the rind and carefully squeeze out the juice. You can also use an extraction juicer or a hand-held citrus juicer, or purée the seeds in a food processor or blender, then strain the juice through a fine mesh sieve. Seeds and juice can be frozen in ice cube trays, zipper bags or airtight containers for later use. And the caveat bears repeating: be careful, because pomegranate juice stains instantly!
- Try making pomegranate molasses. It’s made by reducing pomegranate juice into a thick, luscious syrup that resembles molasses in color and viscosity. This very trendy ingredient adds brightness and exotic dimension to marinades, vinaigrettes, sauces and braises. It’s quick and easy to make at home, or you can buy it in ethnic markets and specialty food shops. Once you try it, chances are it will become a staple in your pantry.