When growing up, I had the luxury of having a pomegranate tree in the backyard. It was small and didn’t bear much fruit, but it was always a treat to come home from school and find a bowl of pomegranate seeds awaiting me. My mother taught me how to handle and seed pomegranates at an early age.
I found myself missing the fruits after I moved out. I was always eager for pomegranate season to roll around so I could resume munching on seeds and reminding myself of winters at home. To this day, the flavor of pomegranates still reminds me of getting home from school on a faintly chilly California afternoon.
I’ll go out of my way to buy several fresh ones every year from the local farmer’s market to get my nostalgia flowing and enjoy the delicious seeds and juice.
When Are Pomegranates In Season?
Pomegranates tend to be available in grocery stores between late September and early January. They’re grown in California, mostly, and they can be stored for several weeks.
At the tail end of the season, however (in late December and early January) you should take extra care when storing pomegranates you purchase from the store — they’ve likely already been refrigerated for a week or two.
When is it ripe?
Ripe pomegranates are heavy, large, and taut. As they’re stored, they tend to shrink and dry out, making them lighter and smaller. Ripe pomegranates bruise easily and can even split naturally. Such split specimens are perfectly fine to eat, especially if you find them at a farmer’s market. It’s usually a good idea to avoid pomegranates with cuts or soft spots, however.
Once a pomegranate has been picked, it stops ripening, so be sure you’re happy with the state of the pomegranates you purchase. They won’t get any riper.
How to Store ?
You can leave a pomegranate out on the counter for about a week with no problems whatsoever. If you need it to last a bit longer, try wrapping it in plastic and throwing it in the fridge.
Pomegranates will last for several weeks when refrigerated. The seeds and juice have higher shelf lives. You can freeze seeds for up to a year quite easily, although they’ll be mushy when they defrost.
Okay, How to Seed ?
Unlike most other fruits, the seeds of a pomegranate are the part you eat. You want to separate them from the white pith inside the fruit for easy eating.
While there are several techniques for seeding pomegranates, the gist is that you want to score (but not cut) the outside deeply from the stem as if you’re making several (6-8) wedges. Once you’ve done that, cut off the ends and then break apart the wedges along the lines you’ve scored. You should be able to turn each wedge inside out over a bowl and easily separate the seeds.
Seeding pomegranates will be a lot easier once you know what to expect when you break open the fruit.
They’re a lot like mangoes in that respect — a thousand guides on the internet won’t replace a few minutes of hands-on practice.
Juice it !
If you’d like to enjoy pomegranate juice instead, simply seed the pomegranate and crush the seeds. An easy way to do this is to throw them in a plastic bag and use a rolling pin. Then, strain the contents of the bag into a container.
You can cut a small opening in one corner in order to leave the bigger solids in the bag if you’d like.When you know you’ll juice a pomegranate, you can be a bit more sloppy with the seeding. You’ll strain out any pith along with the crushed seeds. Do be sure that you don’t accidentally leave in any peel, as it tends to be quite bitter.
Pomegranates In The Kitchen
While pomegranate seeds and juice are delicious on their own, they’re also used in a handful of recipes. Grenadine, notably, can be made with pomegranate juice.
In order to make your own grenadine, mix 1 part sugar to 4 parts pomegranate juice and boil the mixture until it’s slightly thickened. Once it’s cooled, you can add a bit of fresh lemon or lime juice if you’d like. Feel free to adjust the sour / sweet mixture to match your own personal tastes.
Pomegranate seeds can be used as a garnish in salads and are often found in dips. Try using them in addition to tomatoes in your favorite salsa and guac recipes — you might be surprised with the results!
If you like meat, especially lamb, pomegranate juice can serve as the base for a variety of delectable sauces. It’s usually paired with balsamic vinegar or wine and a traditional array of aromatics and spices.
Consider using pomegranate juice in your braising liquid or adding some to your slow cooker when you throw in a pork shoulder or lamb shank. Be sure to save a few whole seeds to use as a garnish.
Practice Makes Perfect
The best way to enjoy pomegranates in your kitchen is to simply relax and enjoy them. I love munching on a small bowl of seeds as I watch movies in the winter or using fresh grenadine in cocktails for my guests. Don’t pass by these delectable fruits!
Once you’ve taken the time to learn about and experiment with pomegranates, you’ll find your own favorite ways to enjoy them.
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