Cooking in Langley: pomegranate flavour is fantastic

Chef Dez is a food columnist and culinary instructor in the Fraser Valley. Visit him at www.chefdez.com. Send questions to dez@chefdez.com

  • Oct. 21, 2015 7:00 p.m.

What could be more appealing to the eyes and the appetite than the appearance of a pomegranate that has just been pulled apart?

The sight of the large cluster of seeds glistening like a crimson beehive makes my mouth water.

The taste of these juicy tidbits that explode with flavour is just the beginning of the benefits to eating this wonderful fruit.

The name pomegranate is derived from the Latin name granatum meaning “fruit of many seeds.” The leathery skin and membrane of this fruit are inedible, and therefore the seeds are the only part that we consume.

Each small seed is encompassed in a juice filled casing, and both can easily be consumed together. Some opt to discard the small inner seed after robbing it of its juice, but this tedious task is not necessary. Although these inner seeds are slightly bitter in comparison to the juice that surrounds them, they are a great source of fibre.

Pomegranates are harvested when they are fully mature, as they will not continue to ripen afterwards on their own. They are grown in moderately tropical climates, and it is believed that pomegranates originated from the areas of Iran and Turkey. When choosing a pomegranate, make sure it is unblemished and bright red in colour. It should feel heavy for its size when picked up. They can be stored at room temperature for a few days, but are best stored in the refrigerator where they can last for up to three weeks.

Although the seed casings are somewhat durable, care should be taken when preparing this fruit for consumption. With a sharp knife cut just the skin off from the top of the pomegranate, where the crown is located. Score the skin into four sections vertically, being careful not to insert the blade of the knife deeper than the thickness of the skin. Pull the pomegranate apart into two halves and then into the four sections. Take care to damage as few of the seeds as possible during this procedure as the juice will stain clothing very easily. Then gently release the seeds from their nestled clusters on the inner membrane with your fingers.

There are so many applications for the use of pomegranate seeds than just to eat them on their own. They are a great addition to fruit salads, green salads, desserts and sauces, and make a wonderful garnish for almost any meal.

Other than providing fantastic flavour, the juice from pomegranates is very nutritional. This is not only determined from their fair levels of potassium and vitamin C, but mostly from the amount of antioxidants they provide. Their high levels of antioxidants have been compared to that of red wine, and are superior to other juices such as cranberry, and blueberry. If juicing pomegranates sounds like a task you would rather not endure, pomegranate juice in its natural state can be purchased in bottles at your local supermarket.

The most widely known usage of pomegranate juice is in grenadine. The main usage of this sweet syrup is in the preparation of cocktail type drinks and some desserts. However, one look at the ingredient list on the label of a popular brand, and you will realize that it does not state pomegranate juice anywhere. Could it be part of the natural and artificial flavour it does list as the fourth ingredient? If you would rather have grenadine that you know contains real pomegranate juice, it can easily be made at home. Macerate the seeds of two pomegranates with approximately 1.5 cups of white sugar. Cover and let sit for 24 hours. Bring to a boil, simmer for a few minutes, and then strain through a wire mesh strainer. Cover and refrigerate.

Dear Chef Dez:

Since pomegranates are only available fresh for a short period of the year, is it okay to freeze them?

Anne R., Langley

Dear Anne:

Yes, but only the seeds. Discard the skin and inner membrane, and put the seeds in a freezer bag into the freezer where they will keep for at least six months.

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