Monday, November 3, 2008

Ode to a California Pomegranate

It's that time of year again. And no, I don't mean Monday night football or Christmas shopping, but rather pomegranate time. I see them everywhere I go - at the corner bodegas or resting next to the apples on the sidewalk fruit carts. I will gladly spend half an hour picking out the rich red arils and popping them into my mouth, leaving behind nothing more than pith and rind.

A native of the region stretching from Iran to the Himalayas in northern India, the pomegranate tree was first introduced in California by Spanish settlers in 1769. Today, pomegranates grown in the United States mainly originate from California and Arizona, and are only available from September until January.

Pomegranates and their juice are most famous for their nutritional value. High in vitamin C and potassium, pomegranate juice has a high level of three different types of polyphenols: tannins, anthocyanins, and ellagic acid. These polyphenols are a potent form of antioxidants that are believed to prevent cancer and heart disease. And at only 80 calories per half cup of arils, are a low fat snack.

I recently learned the best way of cutting open a pomegranate and digging out the arils. In the past I had cut the pomegranate any old which way, and proceeded to break it apart in the same manner. Not only did this make a mess, but it wasn't the easiest way to dig the arils out. However, the other day, I decided that there HAD to be a better way of removing the arils, so I did a little research, and this is what I found.

First, remove the crown by cutting around the top like you would with a pumpkin. You will notice that the pomegranate has five sections. Cut the skin down the side from the stem to the crown end at each of the five section divisions. Then, gently break the sections apart. Once the sections are broken apart, pull back the skin and scoop out the arils. After breaking the sections apart, you can also place the pomegranate into a bowl of water to make the separating the arils from the pith and rind a little easier.

Photo by digiyesica at flickr.

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