The word Pomegranate means ‘apple with many seeds’. Cut into it and you find what Jane Grigson describes as “a closet of juicy seeds”, the fruitlets nestled in seemingly randomly arranged clusters separated by a creamy-white membrane. Skin colour can vary according to variety, from ivory to gold and pink, through deep red to maroon. Seeds, too, vary from white to deep wine-red, their colour being a guide to the balance of acidity (white) and sweetness (red), though Pomegranates can be sweet, tart, and often astringent, all at once. They are packed with beneficial anthocyanins and antioxidants.
As the seeds of the fruitlets are so prominent, they are often juiced for drinking or cooked down to make a syrup or molasses. The juice can also be fermented into wine. In northern India, they are dried and ground for use as an acidifying powder. Juicing the whole fruit, rather than just the seeds, makes it much more tannic. In fact, the rind of the fruit is so rich in tannins that it was once used for tanning leather.
Pomegranates are native to arid and semi-arid regions of the Mediterranean and Western Asia. They need a very hot and dry climate to ripen fully and are now commercially grown in countries like Iran, Turkey, India, China, North Africa, Sicily, Spain and the Central Valley of California.
Choose fruits that are heavy for their size as they will have more seeds and less membrane. Pomegranate juice is good for tenderising meat and the seeds add colour, flavour and texture to salads and desserts. Scatter the seeds over a green salad with grilled spatchcocked quail, duck breast or lamb chops; the Barrafina cookbook suggests making a dressing from oil and pomegranate juice to dress chicory, and serving it with mojama (wind-dried tuna) and some seeds of the fruit; Jose Pizarro, in his book Seasonal Spanish Food, scatters the seeds over a smoked beef salad; and in Brindisa – The True Food of Spain, Monika Linton has a luscious-looking recipe for slow-cooked pheasant with sweet aubergine and pomegranate. The juice can also be frozen to make a wonderful granita. Kitty Travers, in her book, La Grotta Ices combines the juice of pomegranate with bitter orange for a deep, dark granita ice that can be tempered, if you like, by a spoonful of zest-spiked whipped cream.
How to de-seed a Pomegranate? There are >29 million entries on the Internet. It’s really not that difficult!