By Joan Russell
Pomegranates have a hard brownish-yellow to red rind which encloses reddish juicy pulp with many seeds. Botanically the fruit is a large berry that is two to five inches in diameter. It is grown in warm areas such as California and Florida in the US. The edible part is located around the seeds, which makes the fruit hard to eat and use in recipes. Most of the commercial production of this fruit is in California. It is available through January.
Pomegranates have been cultivated since prehistoric times. They are native to Persia, Greece and the Mediterranean basin. The species appears to have become naturalized from birds spreading the seed. The Old Testament calls them rimmon, which come from the Arabic term rumman. The amount of seeds made the ancient cultures associate the pomegranate with procreation, increase and abundance. The early name for pomegranate was Malum Punicum or Apple of Carthage.
In the US William Bartram saw the fruit grow in the ruins of Frederica, Georgia about 1773. The Spanish Padres were also credited with bringing pomegranates to California missions some 200 years ago. The word is derived from Middle French pome garnete and means seeded apple. It has been a symbol of fertility in many cultures. Some people used the fruit to treat inflammations, such as sore throats and rheumatism.
USES OF THE FRUIT
The fruit has a variety of uses. It is used to decorate dinner and banquet tables as part of an arrangement. The fruit, about the size of an apple, is split open to reveal several clusters of red seeds enclosed in a white spongy membrane. It is grown for the juice that can be extracted and to eat the inner berries. When the fruit is eaten raw the berries are sometimes removed with a nut pick. Sometimes the berries are used as a garnish on desserts and salads. The juice which can be extracted from the berries is used in beverages and to make syrup. The juice is used to make grenadine for flavoring drinks.
Even the outer rind of the fruit has some interesting uses. The rind is used to make ink that some people describe as unfading. The skin or peel is also boiled to make a bitter drink that is used as a cure for dysentery.
The most popular commercial variety grown is the Early Wonderful variety. It is large, glossy, and a deep red color. This variety is believed to have been started in California.
STORAGE AND PREPARATION
Pomegranates can be held at room temperature for a time. They should be out of direct sun. For longer use they can be refrigerated at 32-41 degrees. The seeds can be refrigerated in plastic bags or frozen for later use.
Try to choose fruit with thin unbroken skin. Inside, the membranes should not be too prominent and seeds should yield at least 1/2 cup juice. It is impossible to look inside so inspect the outer skins for good color (no brown spots or other signs of spoiling).
The easiest way to remove seeds for a recipe is to cut the ends of the pomegranates with a knife. Cut or score the fruit along the rind so as to break through the rind but not the entire fruit. Fill a bowl with cold water and immerse the fruit under the water and soak about 5 minutes. Break the fruit apart in the water into sections and separate seeds from the rind and membrane. The seeds fall to the bottom when you separate them and the rind and membranes floats to the top. Remove the membranes and rind, then drain the seeds and put aside for use.
A good way to extract juice from pomegranates is to run the seeds through a coffee grinder or food processor. Strain pulp through wire strainer into a bowl. Take a spoon and
push down on pulp in the strainer to extract as much juice as possible to the bowl. It is important to rinse out the strainer and coffee grinder or food processor as you process each batch.
A medium-size pomegranate yields about 3/4 cup of seed and 1/2 cup of juice. Pomegranate syrup can be used as an excellent sauce for fresh fruit. or a refreshing drink by adding sugar, water and ice. It can also be used as a syrup on waffles and pancakes. The seeds can be used in salads, desserts, and eaten raw.
2 large pomegranates
1 cup of granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Cut off the ends of the pomegranates. Cut the outer skin of the fruit in several places with a knife and place in a bowl of cold water for at least 5 minutes. Let the fruit soak for 5 minutes. Break the fruit into sections with your hands in water and remove seed from the rind and spongy membrane. The seeds will fall to bottom of bowl and rinds float to the top. Remove the rind and membrane then strain the pomegranates seed through a strainer and put aside.
In a coffee grinder or small food processor grind small amounts of the seeds at a time. Remove each batch of seeds with pulp and strain into empty bowl through wire strainer. Discard pulp and seeds but not juice. Use a spoon to push down on pulp so you can extract as much juice as possible into the bowl. Do this until you have processed all the seeds and extracted the juice. Please be sure to clean the strainer and grinder or processor.as you go along.
Pour the liquid from the bowl into a clear container and refrigerate overnight or at least 8 hours. It is said that the sediment will settle to the bottom of container.
When ready to make syrup use entire mixture but strain a few times again through the wire or mesh strainer. Pour mixture into medium sauceepan over medium heat adding sugar and lemon juice. Bring the mixture to a boil and let it cook over lower heat until it thickens. Let it cool then pour into a container then refrigerate. Use on fruit salad, waffles, and even ice-cream or cake.
Pomegranate sangria. "Pomegranates are a rich source of the wrinkle-reducing plant chemical ellagic acid."
Magical properties of Pomegranate
by Candace Hunter
Pomegranate trees are vigorous growers, sprouting many suckers from a single root and crown. Their fruit is filled with seeds, not just five or six or even ten or twenty, but 840 seeds. Pomegranate's fertility magic is about diversity. Pomegranate teaches us to cast our seeds far and wide, to send out many branches, to find strength in a diverse or wide array of creative pursuits.
Uncompromising in its environmental requirements, pomegranate's fertility magic is about protecting the diversity we sow. Pomegranate won't fruit if the conditions aren't right, although very few would call pomegranate tender or delicate. Pomegranate reminds us to be aware of our environment, to choose where and when we sow our seeds wisely, and to be incompromising in the conditions we require for our own growth.
Just as pomegranate may drop its fruit in the first few years, pomegranate projects may appear to be failing initially. Stick with it and trust in pomegranate's magic to help you realize the abundance you seek, an abundance that can endure through many more years. After the initial two or three years of fruiting, pomegranate can bear as many as 400 pounds of fruit for another ten to fifteen years. That's a lot when you consider pomegranate's generally compact stature.
Despite pomegranate's somewhat rugged appearance, with its wild growth habit, somewhat thorny branches, and long and leathery leaves, pomegranate shapes fruits that house potent medicinal energies. Pomegranate seeds can help prevent cancer, ease the affects of aging, and prevent unwanted pregnancy, and that's just the beginning. It's no wonder that Persephone used those same seeds to shape the story of her marriage and that kings and queens, gods and goddesses have identified with its power; who can argue with magic that strong? When you invoke the magic of pomegranate, you draw on the energies necessary to solidify shape. Hold your intentions well, and pomegranate can help you create in big and powerful ways.
Magical uses of pomegranate
Pomegranate "magic" - the health effects of pomegranates
A folktale about a magical pomegranate