Pomegranates: A little bit of culinary colour

Pomegranates cherished for their beauty, flavour, colour and health benefits.

Pomegranates cherished for their beauty, flavour, colour and health benefits. - Credit: Archant

The Pomegranate has to be one of the most beautiful of fruits, with a delightful burst of colour – and it’s in season now.

Its name derives from the Middle French “pomme garnete” – literally “seeded apple”. It is also sometimes referred to as a Chinese apple. Many scholars believe that the forbidden – yet irresistible – fruit that tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden was actually a pomegranate rather than an apple.

Pomegranates have been cherished for their beauty, flavour, colour and health benefits for centuries. From their distinctive crown to their ruby red arils, (the flesh-covered seeds) pomegranates are royalty of the fruit world.

To prepare pomegranates:

Score the fruit with a knife and break it open so that the arils (seed casings) are separated from the peel and internal white pulp membranes. Separating the red arils is easier in a bowl of water because the arils sink and the inedible pulp floats. Freezing the entire fruit also makes it easier to separate. Another very effective way of quickly harvesting the arils is to cut the pomegranate in half. Score each half of the exterior rind four to six times, hold the pomegranate half over a bowl and smack the rind with a large spoon. The arils should fall from the pomegranate directly into the bowl, leaving only a dozen or more deeply-embedded arils to remove.

The entire seed is consumed raw, though the watery, tasty aril is the desired part. Pomegranate juice taste differs depending on the subspecies of pomegranate and its ripeness.

Grenadine syrup is a thickened and sweetened pomegranate juice and is used in cocktail mixing. Before tomatoes (a New World fruit) arrived in the Middle East, grenadine was widely used in many Iranian foods and is still found in traditional recipes.

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Wild pomegranate seeds are used as a spice, known as anardana, most notably in Indian and Pakistani cooking. Dried whole arils can often be bought in ethnic Indian shops. These seeds are separated from the flesh, dried for 10-15 days and used as an acidic agent for chutney and curry preparation.

In my recipe I am using pomegranate molasses in the dressing. It is actually a concentrated form of pomegranate syrup, not really molasses, and is made by boiling down the juice of a tart variety of pomegranate. It is fantastic teamed with creamy acidic cheese such as feta or goat’s cheese. Also try it thinned down with water and use it to make a syrup to dress fresh fruit, such as watermelon.

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