November 2, 2014
I’ve been wanting to start something like a food-basics library for a while now. So no recipes here, but lots of facts about vegetables, fruit, spices and food preparation basics. I’m going to add more posts as soon as I have my facts straight and I hope that a while from now [probably a few years :) ] I will have a nice search base.
The posts will include things like nutrition values, preparation advice, links to recipes and depending on the subject additional – hopefully useful – information.
My first entry is about Pomegranates – because it’s probably my most favorite fruit. They look like geodes filled with rubies. They are fun to eat and taste delicious! So here we go.
The pomegranate is probably one of the oldest cultivated fruits. They are ancient fruits native to the Middle East. The pomegranate has a role in fable and folklore – and is pictured in dozens of historic paintings. They have been considered a symbol of immortality, fertility, and abundance. In Greek mythology, the love goddess Aphrodite was thought to have planted the first pomegranate tree – no surprise it has a reputation as an aphrodisiac.
Pomegranate trees need plenty of heat – therefore most of our pomegranates come from Greece or the south of California. They are usually in season from end of September through November. Since they store quite well they might be sold until early January.
SHOPPING + STORAGE
When buying your pomegranates go for deep-red colored ones that are heavy for their size – this usually indicates that they will be sweet and juicy. Older specimens will start to shrink as they dry out – looks a bit like a mummy head. So plump, rounded – without cuts, slashes or bruises is the way to go! [naturally occurring splits are fine]
Pomegranates do not ripen after being picked – yet bruise relatively easily when ripe. They store beautifully – on the countertop or 1 to 2 weeks – wrapped loosely in plastic and refrigerated for up to a few weeks. The arils [flesh-covered seeds] can be kept in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to a week and frozen up to a year [defrosted ariel work in cooked recipes, but aren’t great to eat out-of-hand]
If you want to dry whole pomegranates as decorations – simply leave them in a well-aerated, cool, dry spot for a few weeks.
I like my Pomegranate as a snack – just eaten out of hand [frozen is nice too]. But they make a great culinary addition to lots of dishes.
In Mexico for example they are commonly used in the traditional dish ‘chiles en nogada’ – representing the Mexican flag. [green – poblano pepper, white – nogada sauce, red – pomegranates]
The fruits have a sour note to them and are often used as a replacement for lemon or lime [for example in salads]. Next time you make Mexican wraps – try adding pomegranate arils instead of lime juice!
With their sweet-sour taste and crisp texture pomegranate arils make for a great addition to any dessert! In addition they go great with savory things like olives, mint, avocado, goat cheese, parsley, garlic and red onion.
Dried whole seeds are used as a spice called ‘anardana’ [Persian: anar – pomegranate, dana – seed]. They are mainly used in Indian, Persian and Pakistani cuisine. The seeds are separated from the flesh, dried for 10-15 days and are often used in acidic agents for chutney and curries. The whole dried seeds are used in granola bars, as topping for salad, yoghurt or ice cream. Chocolate covered seeds may be added to desserts and baked items. If you are looking for a more intense flavor [and the benefit that it doesn’t get stuck in your teeth] ground the seeds to a powder.
Pomegranate juice [ranging from sweet to sour – depending on type and ripeness] has long been a popular drink in Armenia, Persia and India and is now widely distributed around the world.
Grenadine syrup [used in cocktail mixing] long ago consisted of thickened and sweetened pomegranate juice. Now it’s usually a syrup based on various berries, citric acid and food coloring. The syrup, molasses or vinegar are widely used in Turkey, the Iran, the Caucasus and Azerbaijan. The syrup is a vibrantly flavorful addition to dressings, glazes, and marinades – served with walnuts, spooned over duck, served with fish or used to marinate meat.
The pomegranate peel is inedible. The higher phenolic content of the peel yields extracts for use in dietary supplements and food preservatives – so nothing you do at home. Just throw it out!
Pomegranate seed oil is made by cold pressing the de-fleshed seeds. The oil is amber in color and has a fruity fragrance. The oil is extremely nutritious and rich – so it’s used internally and externally for cosmetic and medicinal purposes. It has regenerative properties – therefore it’s used in many cosmetic formulas like soap, shower gels, massage oils, moisturizer and other skin care products.
I like my pomegranate ariels fresh the best – but here are some inspirations what else you can use them for.
HOW TO PEEL
The edible part of a pomegranate is its arils [on average there are 800 arils per pomegranate]. When you prepare a pomegranate you remove them from the inedible white rind and membranes. This can be a bit tricky – and quite messy – so maybe don’t go for a white T-shirt!
Slice off the crown of the fruit – just cutting deep enough to slice through the thick rind.
Peel off the cap.
Pomegranates usually have 4 to 10 compartments. Slice the skin- separating the sections.
With your thumbs carefully pry the fruit open.
Turn each section inside out.
Separate the seeds from the inner white membranes. [take care not to burst the individual arils]
The neat thing about pomegranates is that the white membranes and the skin float – while arils sink to the bottom. So grab a large bowl of water and pluck the seeds under water. Now you just need to skim off the floating membrane and drain the pomegranate arils through a mesh.
I added the nutritional value list I found on Wikipedia but the gist is – lots of Vitamin A,C and E together with dietary fiber, antioxidants and folic acid. Just one glass of pomegranate juice has the same polyphenol content as two glasses of red wine, four glasses of cranberry juice, or 10 cups of green tea. It’s also an excellent source of potassium, and calcium. A 100-g serving of pomegranate seeds provide 12% of the Daily Value for Vitamin C and 16% DV for Vitamin K.
Nutritional value per 100g [% of Daily Value]
Pomegranates have been used in traditional medicine in India for a long time. The rind of the fruit and the bark of the pomegranate tree are used as a traditional remedy against diarrhea, dysentery, and intestinal parasites. The seeds and juice are considered a tonic for the heart, throat and are considered a blood builder. The flower juice, rind, and tree bark are considered valuable for stopping nose and gum bleeds, firming-up sagging breasts, and treating hemorrhoids.
There is an astonishingly long list of diseases pomegranates are supposed to cure. As far as I know none of it is actually proven – but it probably doesn’t turn your condition to the worse either. Please don’t give this too much credit.
– helps prevent prostate cancer
– reduces the build of plaque that leads to atherosclerosis
– helps keep blood lipid levels healthy
– enhances immune function
– reduces dental plaque
– reduces risk of heart diseases, alzheimer’s, anemia and stomach disorders
– fights skin problems
– helps with kidney diseases and male infertility