What a response I got when I decided to write about pomegranates! It seems that everyone has some bit of trivia to share about this funny little fruit! For instance, in Jewish as well as Chinese lore, the pomegranate (also known as the Chinese Apple) symbolizes fertility.
The pomegranate differs from the fruits we’re most familiar with. We don’t eat its outside as it doesn’t have edible flesh; we only eat its seeds…and there are 613 of those! If you’ve got some free time on your hands and don’t mind them being stained red, you can count them for yourself! Years ago my kids and I tried to count them just to check and that was no easy task! The number 613 might sound familiar since there are as many commandments in the Torah. In addition to the equal number of mitzvot, there are other pomegranate-to-religion relationships…. Pomegranates once adorned the hem of Aaron’s robes and consequently are often found on the crowns of modern day Torahs. Pomegranates are said to have been in the Garden of Eden way back when, and are definitely all over Israel now.
In the United Sates, the fruit is harvested in October and November ~ perfect timing for our festive tables at Rosh Hashonah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simhat Torah. And speaking of the festive table…there are a number of ways to use the pomegranate during the holidays. Bowls full of individual seeds are certainly the most popular. The edible, translucent red pulp covered seeds disappear handful after handful. It is labor intensive to separate each seed from the bitter membrane of the pomegranate, but the tasty treat is worth it and here is an easy 3 step process for seeding a pomegranate. Just recently I've begun to see packages of the ready-to-eat seeds... now that's a treat! If you’re not in the mood to painstakingly pry each seed from the membrane, you can simply cut the pomegranate into wedges, like apples, and leave the eating process a little more casual. It’s not fancy watching someone tear the light colored membrane out of their mouths, so cutting the fruit into wedges might be better for when there are no guests around!
I have to admit, there aren’t really 613 culinary things to do with a pomegranate, but there is more than just counting the seeds and eating them. I buy a whole bunch of pomegranates at the beginning of the holiday season and use them continuously. Since they age well, I store them in the refrigerator for up to two months to get me through early winter.
Whether it’s a quick snack, an ingredient, or a garnish, the pomegranate does not go without notice! As a drink, it’s delicious when adding pomegranate juice to a glass of seltzer, ginger ale or a martini. Pomegranate juice is readily available year round, too. And it's great for making sauces and vinaigrettes, as well.
At the New Year, it’s traditional to indulge in sweets and honey, yet in contrast, we avoid eating nuts at this time and so it’s a perfect time to replace nuts with pomegranate seeds. At other times of the year though, I enjoy combining pecans, walnuts or almonds in a salad. And for a fruit salad or platter, I add the bright red seeds for an eye catching edible garnish.
After the holidays, try the tart and sweet taste of pomegranate seeds with the mellowness of goat cheese in a field green salad with toasted pecans and a drizzle of pomegranate vinaigrette. Or you might also enjoy the flavor and unexpected crunch of a Pomegranate seed Salsa over grilled chicken any night of the week. Combine grapefruit, orange, cilantro, red onion, lime juice and pomegranate seeds and let the flavors marry for a while before serving. My real favorite though is the following honey sweetened Pomegranate Chicken recipe.
The Abigael's team and I wish you and your family a new year filled with peace, love and joy.