Pomegranates are among the most interesting fruits we have. Filled with religious significance, they are also full of flavor and goodness. However, they can seem intimidatingly difficult to get into, and their tough skin can make them awkward to handle, cut and get to grips with.
Many people are put off by these qualities, but, if you get to know a pomegranate, a lot of goodness and fine taste is to be had. Its bright red seeds are edible and in a ripe pomegranate they are bursting with juice.
If you like foods with subtle tastes, that are sweet, but also occasionally slightly tart, then a pomegranate needs to be part of your diet.
Reasons to eat a pomegranate
Pomegranates are, like many fruits, high in vitamins. They are especially high in vitamin C and vitamin K, a rarer vitamin. In addition, they have good levels of fiber in their flesh, as well as minerals such as potassium and copper.
They are also a highly effective provider of antioxidants and phytonutrients, which are essential in any healthy diet, as they fight the free radicals in your body that can be harmful to the body’s cells and wider sense of wellbeing.
Even more than that, these very special fruits are helpful to the heart. They are proven to lower cholesterol and reduce the kind of inflammation in the body that can lead to heart damage. Their role in fighting hardening of the arteries is also a highly beneficial element of what they offer us.
Choosing a Pomegranate
Look for heavy and firm pomegranates
The primary reason for eating fruit is that it is tasty. You eat more of what you enjoy, so you want to get into the habit of enjoying a pomegranate at its ripest, as this will encourage you to buy more.
A heavy and firm pomegranate is one that will be at its ripest, and therefore at its sweetest and tastiest. The firmer the pomegranate, the more juice it will contain, and it is in its juice that most of the sweet taste lives. You may even find some fruits that are so ripe that the skin peels away quite easily, but most supermarket pomegranates are not quite at that stage.
Choose a dark-colored, deep ruby-red pomegranate
Weight matters, but color does too. If the pomegranate is darker red, near a ruby shade, you are likely to have one that is suitably ripe. If the skin is too light, the likelihood is the fruit is not ripe and will not offer full flavor.
Check, also, that the fruit is smooth and has an unblemished skin, as this indicates that it is in good condition and is not bruised. Bruised fruits may suggest that there is some overripeness inside, or that parts of the fruit have gone off. Avoid fruits with spots or cracks too, as they will almost certainly not be in prime condition inside either.
Preparing the Pomegranate
Cut the top off and cut it into sections
A pomegranate can be a forbidding fruit to cut into. It does not always make it easy.
First, cut the top off carefully. Then, cut it into sections. The way you do so is down to you, but ideally try quartering it. You could then go for smaller pieces once you have the basic quarters. Remember that they can be quite large fruits, so even a quarter may need further cutting into something smaller still.
The seeds may of course fall as you cut, so make sure to cut it on a plate that gathers them. You do not want to lose the seeds, as they carry a great deal of flavor and goodness.
Break it apart by hand
This is another way of getting into the flesh of the pomegranate, and some people find it the most satisfying. Start by making a small incision about a centimeter deep into the top of the fruit, usually in an x shape. Then use your fingers to peel the fruit slowly apart, tearing the skin as you do. This can be messy, but it is also a pleasant and quite enriching feeling to sense the seeds and juice coming out into the open as you peel the fruit apart.
Separate the seeds from the membrane
The seeds will actually start to separate naturally from the membrane as the fruit is peeled or cut into. Some seeds will of course remain, but these can be scraped out with a fork or spoon. You can use your hands too, of course, if you want to be incredibly thorough and make sure to get all the possible goodness of the fruit.
Enjoying the Pomegranate
Eat the seeds raw
If you are uncertain as to whether you can eat the seeds raw, the answer is ‘Yes’, you absolutely can. In fact, eating the seeds of a pomegranate raw is an incredibly healthy alternative to pomegranate juice or cooked pomegranate. The raw seeds actually contain optimum levels of antioxidants. Like all parts of the fruit, they improve digestion and help combat free radicals in the body that attack the body’s defenses.
If you find the seeds taste a little tart, mix them with some honey, or even a creamy fruit yogurt. This will help balance the flavor and will ensure you get the full goodness.
Sprinkle the seeds over a salad or yogurt
The seeds make an effective garnish or flavor enhancer to a number of core foods. They work well in yogurts, salads, and in rice or quinoa dishes. The color is part of the appeal, but the taste is what makes the use of pomegranates as a topping or mixer especially wise. You do not need too many to have an impact on a dish, so a single fruit can go a long way in enhancing a meal for the whole family, or for a dinner party.
Use them to make a delicious juice
Pomegranate juice has a special taste unique to the fruit. It is an extremely delicious and refreshing drink in the summer, and a warming treat in winter, as it heats up well.
The seeds also blend well, and, if you wish to add another flavor, pomegranates make a superb complement to orange or apple juices, which blend superbly with pomegranate fruit juice and seeds.
Always be careful when cutting
Pomegranates are great, but they can be tricky to cut, so take care. Use a sharp knife, as you will need to make some tough incisions, and you are actually safer with a sharp knife than with one whose blade might slip from the fruit.
Use a cutting board and knife
Before trying to eat a pomegranate, it’s important to consider the best way to cut it open. To do this safely and effectively, start by preparing a cutting board and knife. For most people, a slightly serrated knife is best, as the nature of the skin means that you are better with a degree of friction and grip from the knife blade onto the fruit itself. The skin can be tough, so be steady and true with the blade, and take care.
Wear gloves while handling to avoid staining
Due to the very high juice pulp content of a pomegranate, you can sometimes be wise to wear thin gloves. Staining is an occasional hazard of cutting into a pomegranate, so the gloves protect your hands.
Summary of essential pomegranate eating advice
- Ensure the pomegranate is ripe by gently squeezing it to feel for firmness.
- Check that the color is ruby red, or as close to that as possible
- Cut it in half along its ridges, or make an incision at the top and peel apart
- Remember that all parts except the skin are edible, so scoop out as much flesh and seeds as you can
- Eat it alone, or as a garnish or mixer in other healthy foods
- Blend it to extract the juice to the max, and mix it with other fruit juices for a juice blend
Summary of why pomegranates are such beneficial fruits
There are multiple health benefits to pomegranates, and they really should form part of your healthy well-balanced diet.
- They are nutrient-packed fruits and have proven useful in fighting inflammation, reducing cholesterol levels, and protecting against certain diseases, especially those of the heart.
- Pomegranate consumption has been linked to improved heart health, better digestion, and even a reduced risk of developing certain cancers.
- The very high levels of antioxidants in pomegranates can help the body to fight off free radicals, which can damage cells and DNA.
All in all, these are fruits that are worth the effort of getting into! They will pay your body back in many fine ways.