Aesop’s fable, “The Pomegranate and the Apple Tree.” The pomegranate and the apple tree disputed as to which was the most beautiful. When their strife was at its height, a Bramble from the neighboring hedge lifted up its voice, and said in a boastful tone: “Pray my dear friends, in my presence at least cease from such vain disputings.”
The Pomegranate is a member of the Punicaceae family and is officially called Punica granatum which means “seeded apple” or “apple with many seeds”. It is native to the Mediterranean region and is one of the oldest fruits known to man. Ancient historical evidence shows the movement of pomegranates, and thus its popularity, throughout the Old World. Beginning in Persia it travels to China, Italy, Spain and Great Britain. Greek legend has it that the pomegranate was even found in the underworld! Much to the dismay of Persephone, the pomegranate seeds were so delicious she couldn’t resist them and thus led to her curse of spending 6 months a year in the underworld with Pluto. Those months are now the winter months. And while it is associated with the winter months and the underworld, it is also thought of as a symbol of fertility because of the many seeds. The pomegranate continued its journey to South America and Mexico and today is widely grown in most subtropical regions of the world. The pomegranate is also widely grown in California supplying the US with most of the pomegranates we eat today.
Fall is the prime season for pomegranates in the United States. Typically, October and November are the best months to find them (I have yet to find some in my local area but am hopeful I will find some very soon!) The fruit, grown on small trees or shrubs, is about the size of an apple or orange and is usually a dark yellowish-orange or reddish-purple color. Pomegranates will not continue to ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼ripen once they are picked so they must be picked fully ripened and must be carefully protected during their transport to the final destination markets.
To choose the best pomegranate, it is important to remember that ripe pomegranates will feel heavy for their size. Avoid any that are bruised since, as mentioned above they are shipped ripe. Like apples,the flesh can easily spoil but pomegranates can be stored in a cool place for up to a month or in a refrigerator for up to two months.
The flesh is not the prized part of the pomegranate but the seeds or the “pips” that are eaten with a relish. Each pip is about the size of a kernel of corn and is very colorful. The pips are typically chewed to release the juices then swallowed whole. The pips are also quite often used as garnish. But beware when seeding the pomegranate – the beautiful color will also stain your fingers and clothes! Pomegranates are also favored for their juice that is also squeezed from the seeds. They can be juiced like a lemon using a reamer or using a food mill. Probably one of the most widely known products of the pomegranate is grenadine a syrup used in many bar drinks. Grenadine is non-alcoholic, a bright red color and has a sweet, fresh flavor. It is the sunrise color in a Tequila Sunrise and makes the Roy Rogers and Kiddie Cocktail something truly fun and special for the kids. Unfortunately today most manufacturers use a synthetic product and true pomegranate syrup is much harder to find.
Other uses for pomegranates and grenadine include various savory and sweet sauces, sorbet, icing, ice cream, salad dressing and puddings. Unsweetened pomegranate juice also known as pomegranate molasses is also ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼used in a popular Iranian dish called faisinjan, made of chicken, duck, walnuts and pomegranate juice.