Celebrating the Pomegranate


(Kim O'Donnel)

November may have been National Pomegranate Month, but there’s still plenty of time to get your pom on (it’s in season til January). In fact, I think of the pomegranate -- with its glistening ruby red jewel-like seeds (also known as arils) -- as a December fruit, bringing to mind Christmas tree lights and big globe ornaments hanging from the boughs of a Douglas fir.

In a word, she’s stunning.

But the pomegranate isn’t just a beauty contest winner in the produce aisle; she’s also one of the most nutritious (polyphenol antioxidants galore, beating out red wine) and ancient (dating to prehistoric times -- was it a pom instead of an apple that tempted Adam and Eve?) fruits on the planet.

Most first-timers are flummoxed by the seemingly off-putting rind, slicing through to the juicy aril network and navigating the fibrous membranes -- without painting you and the kitchen walls ruby red. Tampa, Fla.-based blogger Jaden Hair, who pens Steamy Kitchen, offers a moron-proof, stain-less method in this handy how-to video -- by manipulating the arils under water. (She also shares details for a tantalizing pom salad with crisped-up prosciutto, candied walnuts and gorgonzola. Yowza.)

If you've got a clever, original or hilarious pom-opening method up your sleeve, you may want to consider getting it all on film and entering your masterpiece in the How to Open A Pomegranate Video Contest, sponsored by PomFresh pomegranate company. (Apparently, a MacBook Pro and HD Camcorder are the prizes up for grabs!)

Now, let’s get to some recipes. Over the years, I’ve bejeweled my goat cheese-onion tart with pomegranate seeds, and they are a terrifically tart companion to the fatty goat cheese and savory pastry dough. A great combo.

Simpler still, make a pot of coconut rice (1/2 part water, ½ part coconut milk), then dot it with the arils and you’ve got a cinchy side dish that looks like freshly driven snow. There’s something majestic about the color contrast.

Over at 101Cookbooks, blogger Heidi Swanson dishes up a pom salad with bulgur, celery, lots of mint and walnuts, plus a kicky pom vinaigrette.

I like the sound of this lentil soup with chard and pomegranates from The Kitchn gang. Sounds like a take on Clifford Wright’s Syrian-style lentils that I’ve come to love, but using pomegranate molasses instead of the seeds. (The “molasses,” by the way, is pom juice that’s cooked and reduced to a molasses-like syrup.)

At Simply Recipes, blogger Elise Bauer offers how-to details on making pom jelly, which sounds intriguing enough to pull out the Ball jars and set aside an afternoon for canning. Hmm...interesting holiday gift idea...

No recipe, but some mental eye candy for consideration: A few weeks ago at Serious Pie, Tom Douglas’s pizza joint in Seattle, Mister MA and I shared a sublime salad of arugula, persimmon and pomegranate seeds that had me licking my fingers.

Are you a pom freak like me? Share your love for the December belle of the fruit ball in the comments area below.


WHADDYA DOIN' TONIGHT?: Celebritology blogger Liz Kelly and I will be on hand tonight, 6 - 8 p.m., for an official meet-and-greet at D.C.'s M Bar at the Renaissance M St Hotel. Come on out. We've got themed cocktails, an iPod shuffle raffle thingy and plenty of good conversation.


By Kim ODonnel |  December 4, 2008; 8:30 AM ET Seasonal Produce
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Comments

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Kim, one thing that's always confused me - are the seeds the only thing you eat? Do you throw away the rest of the pomegranate? And thanks for the link. That salad sounds scrumptious!

Posted by: FL_native_now_in_MD | December 4, 2008 1:01 PM

my grandmother (and I) looooove pomegranates. When I was a kid, she used to give them to my brothers and I, but make us wear swimsuits in the bathtub to eat them (ok, naked when we were really little). Then we (and the tub) could all be rinsed off easily and nothing got stained red!

Posted by: violarulz | December 4, 2008 1:01 PM

When I was much much younger, we lived next door to a lady with a large mature pomegranate tree. To reach the tantalizing red orbs, my brothers and I had to climb her garage roof. The ripest pomegranates would split themselves open revealing ruby-red jewels glistening from within. She was a nice lady and I did yard work for her, but she didn't like us on her garage roof. It was another day and age. She would call the police, and the rapscallion patrol would leap from the roof, pomegranate booty in tow. We would skulk back to my mother's kitchen where we would fill cereal bowls with the delicious dark red seeds which were quickly spooned into our ever hungry mouths. That was southern California in the 60s.

Posted by: davemarks | December 4, 2008 1:10 PM

I've never eaten a pomegranate, so here's a newby question: Do you spit out or eat the actual seed after the good part is gone?

Posted by: fran426 | December 4, 2008 1:29 PM

fran426: Either. I chew the pomegranate seeds because it's always seemed like too much work to spit them out. Both my parents grew up eating fresh, sun-warmed pomegranate back in the Old Country. One prefers to spit out the seeds, the other happily crunches down on them. They are a little tannic, but not nearly as mouth-puckering as grape seeds can be. Plus, they're apparently a good source of fiber.

Posted by: fonkyou | December 4, 2008 2:30 PM

My suggestion for poms:

Grenadine, a syrup that adds scarlet color, flavor, and sweetness to cocktails and desserts, should be made from pomegranates. (If you don't remember what grenadine is, think of the classic kid's "cocktail," the Shirley Temple.)

The most readily available brand of grenadine on the market is Rose's, which is nothing but corn syrup with a little acid and artificial coloring. It adds little but eerie redness to drinks and is a pale imitation of real grenadine.

Fortunately, making real grenadine takes only a couple minutes. Paul Clarke over at The Cocktail Chronicles has a great post (hope it's okay that I link this, Kim): http://www.cocktailchronicles.com/2006/05/21/grenadine-face-off/

Now that you have real grenadine, you could of course try making some cocktails with it: the Pink Lady, El Presidente, the Supreme, the Singapore Sling, the Clover Club. The Jack Rose is another classic. Recipes for all of these are readily available on the various cocktail blogs. "Mocktails" or virgin drinks like the Shirley Temple are great with it too. Or just mix it with some soda water or orange juice.

Food ideas: drizzle it over ice cream, custards, cheesecake, whipped cream, slices of white cake. The color is really nice. Add it to sauces for pork or lamb or use it to make a glaze for duck. Combine with cranberries and serve with roast turkey. Put it on yogurt.

As far as holiday-themed ideas go, Cupcake Project has a recipe for crimson-and-white Shirley Temple cupcakes that could easily be adapted for Christmas. http://www.cupcakeproject.com/2008/01/shirley-temple-cupcakes-valentines-day.html

Grenadine is not the same thing as pomegranate molasses. It has a brighter, sweeter flavor, and should not taste too "cooked" or "concentrated."

If you don't feel like making grenadine, Stirrings and Sonoma Syrups both make pomegranate syrups or grenadines that use real pomegranate.

Posted by: fonkyou | December 4, 2008 2:59 PM

A guy was telling me, a couple of years ago, that all of his brothers are bald. But he grinds up the pomegranate rind in a blender and applies it to his head, which he maintains prevents hair loss.

Posted by: davemarks | December 5, 2008 10:07 AM

I have made a home version of this Roased Beet and Farro side dish from Mario Batali with a lot of sucess. It uses pomegranite molasses.

http://www.babbonyc.com/rec-roasted_beet_farrotto.html

Posted by: deb41 | December 5, 2008 1:22 PM

Great video (I love SteamyKitchen), I have spoiled more than one shirt while eating pomegranates. As a kid I'd eat pomegranate seeds sprinkled on Grape Nuts cereal. Some milk, a little sugar. Delicious. Your coconut rice recipe sounds delicious! Have used mangoes before with great success, would not have thought to use pomegranates. Thanks!

Posted by: CarrieOliver | December 5, 2008 2:02 PM

I was visiting Va/Dc last week for Thanksgiving. Made it to G'town for some last minute shopping, and as I'm walking into the Gap, I see this huge pomegranate on the curb! HUGE, untattered! So, a young couple walks by and says take it! Should be good! I'm thinking, oh my goodness I wonder if anything is wrong with it. I took it anyway and showed it to my mom. She thinks everything is okay, no matter where found. I left it there and don't know if anyone at the house touched it. I'm so curious though, to know if any of you would have eaten it!?!?

Posted by: FlanBoyantEats | December 5, 2008 2:56 PM

FlanBoyantEats: I would have eaten it. I have a hard time believing that anyone would go to the trouble of adulterating a pomegranate in order to leave it by the Gap in Georgetown. :) But I also live in an area right now where it's very common for people to leave boxes of free stuff, including food, by the curb for passersby to take if they want it. Among other things over time I have acquired four years of Smithsonian magazine, a copy of the King James Bible translated into some Papua New Guinean language, a dozen persimmons, an armload of Meyer lemons, a pound of Irish cheddar, a nice armchair, and a bottle of Maker's Mark.

Posted by: fonkyou | December 5, 2008 3:53 PM

Poms are the ultimate food for the eating disordered. When I used to be really thin, and really obsessed, poms were awesome cuz they took a long time to eat, allowed you to use your fingers to fiddle with the food, and had very few calories. This actually has a sort of long mythic history, as in Greek mythology, someone (Persephone?) was kidnapped by the water god (Poseidon?) and dragged into his kingdom. She was so despondent and quit eating. He said he would release her, but she made the fatal mistake of eating six pomegranate seeds, so she could only return to earth for six months of the year (hence, the seasons).

Posted by: khachiya1 | December 5, 2008 5:40 PM

FL_native_now_in_MD:
You eat the red seeds (the arils) and throw away the rind and the white pith. You can also just eat the red part around the seed and spit out the middle (like a cherry pit).

Posted by: gtown2008 | December 5, 2008 11:36 PM

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