Pomegranates are among the healthiest fruits on earth. Pomegranates, with their gorgeous ruby-red color, are beautiful to behold, and the shiny red “jewels” inside, called arils, contain sweet juicy nectar surrounding a white seed in the middle. Despite some popular opinions, pomegranate seeds can be eaten – and they are good for you, too!
What are the Health Benefits?
Pomegranate is an extremely healthy fruit. Many people cut them open, scoop out the seeds, and eat them whole. Yet others suck the juice off each seed before spitting out the white fibrous middle, but these people may be missing out on some of the pomegranate’s health benefits. The pomegranate and its distinctive seeds have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. The fruit, with its Middle Eastern origins, is claimed to be effective against heart disease, high blood pressure, inflammation, and some cancers, including prostate cancer.
Pomegranates are rich in vitamin C and potassium, and most of the fruit’s fiber is found in the white seeds hiding beneath the pockets of juice. The juice of a single pomegranate has more than 40% of your daily requirement of vitamin C. (Vitamin C can be broken down when pasteurized, so opt for homemade or fresh pomegranate juice to get the most of the nutrient.) In addition to vitamin C and vitamin E, pomegranate juice is a good source of folate, potassium, and vitamin K. With about 235 calories in an entire pomegranate, it’s a relatively low-calorie food, which makes it a delicious and ideal snack for people watching their weight.
Pomegranate seeds get their vibrant red hue from polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants. Pomegranate juice contains higher levels of antioxidants than most other fruit juices, and three times more antioxidants than red wine and green tea. The antioxidants in pomegranate juice can help remove free radicals, protect cells from damage, and reduce inflammation.
The only potential danger of pomegranates lies in the risks it presents to dogs. Some dogs may experience extreme digestive distress due to the tannins and acids within pomegranates, so best to keep them away from Rover.
Get the Most Out of Pomegranates
In North America, you’re most likely to find pomegranates in late summer to early winter, when the fruits are in season. However, some grocers import pomegranates from the Southern Hemisphere, offering them throughout the year.
Choosing ripe pomegranates is relatively easy, as those found in local grocery stores and supermarkets are picked when ripe. Look for plump, rounded pomegranates (they dry out as they’re stored, and older specimens will start to shrink as the thick skin closes in on the seeds); they should feel heavy for their size and should be free of slashes or bruises. You are much more likely to find truly ripe, fresh pomegranates at farmers markets, co-ops that get deliveries directly from farmers, and farm stands. Pomegranates do not ripen after they’re picked, but they bruise relatively easily when ripe; however, small scratches on the surface don’t affect the fruit inside, so don’t judge a pomegranate by its lightly scarred skin.
How to Pit a Pomegranate
Plenty of guides suggest separating pomegranate seeds from the pith and membrane in a bowl of water, but there are better ways. Once you find the heavy, plump pomegranate of your dreams, use a sharp knife to cut just through the peel of the pomegranate from stem to end (you should cut into, but not through the pomegranate). Score the pomegranate into sections – five or six is just right – that can easily be pulled apart. Slice off enough of the top to reveal the bright red seeds underneath and discard the top of the pomegranate.
Pull the pomegranate apart into the sections you’ve cut; in most cases, the fruit will naturally pull apart by the white pith. Working over a bowl, break the pomegranate sections into slightly smaller pieces for easier handling. Peel off and discard the bits of white membrane covering the clusters of pomegranate seeds, and turn each pomegranate section “out” – take the edges of the sections and pull them back toward you to push the seeds out and into the bowl. Repeat for each section of the pomegranate.
Each medium size pomegranate will yield about one cup of pomegranate seeds. Use them in salads, drop them in drinks, or enjoy them straight-up. If you’ve bought too many pomegranates to eat in one sitting, you can save the seeds by spreading them on a baking sheet and freezing them for two hours. Then transfer them to freezer bags and put them back in the freezer. This method will make them last for up to one year.
How to Make Pomegranate Juice
You can juice pomegranates and save yourself the expense of buying it in a bottle. Plus, pre-bottled pomegranate juice can contain all sorts of other ingredients, including added sugar and sodium.
To make juice, place your pomegranate seeds in a blender. Pulse the seeds a few times to break them apart and release their juice. Don’t blend them for too long, or the seeds will break apart and create cloudy juice. Using a mesh strainer, strain the pomegranate liquid into a container; then use the back of a spoon to push against the pomegranate pulp and extract as much juice as possible. Chill, if desired, and enjoy.
Easy Grilled Salmon with Pomegranate Vinaigrette
This pomegranate vinaigrette serves a dual purpose in this easy grilled salmon dish. It is both a marinade and a dressing that is drizzled over the finished dish, which can be eaten as main dish or over lettuce for a main-course salad.
- 1/2 cup fresh or bottled pomegranate juice
- 1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 cup olive oil or sunflower oil
- Salt and pepper
For the fish:
- 4 (4- to 6-ounce) boneless, skinless salmon fillets, patted dry
- Romaine lettuce (optional)
- Pomegranate seeds, for garnish
- 1 tablespoon chopped chives, for garnish
- To make the pomegranate vinaigrette: In a medium bowl, mix the pomegranate juice, vinegar, and honey, and let sit for 10 minutes. Whisk in the oil and adjust the seasonings. Refrigerate until ready to use. Stir thoroughly before using.
- For fish: Season salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Lay them in a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic pan and pour 1/2 cup of the pomegranate vinaigrette over. Turn fillets to coat with vinaigrette. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes but no longer than 3 hours.
- Meanwhile, heat a large, indoor tabletop grill or outdoor grill. Place salmon on the hot grill, cover and cook 4-5 minutes. (Salmon can also be baked under the broiler in an oven.) It usually takes 5 minutes per ½ inch of thickness. Discard vinaigrette used for marinating.
- Serve with or without greens, drizzling reserved vinaigrette over the fillets and garnishing with pomegranate seeds and chives, if desired.
Black Rice Salad with Butternut Squash and Pomegranate Seeds
Dramatic-looking black rice – which hails from Thailand or Indonesia – has a mellow, sweet taste. If you can’t find it, wild, brown, or red rice will work just as nicely.
- 2/3 cup black rice, cooked according to package direction, drained, and rinsed
- 1 pound butternut squash
- 1/2 teaspoon sweet smoked Spanish paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
- 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 tablespoon maple syrup
- Pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons sliced scallions
- 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
- Preheat oven to 375° F. Peel and seed the squash and cut into 1-inch cubes. In a large bowl, toss squash with paprika, salt, and 1 tablespoon of oil. Spread on a baking sheet in a single layer and roast, stirring occasionally, until browned and tender, about 40 minutes. Let cool.
- Spread pecans on another baking sheet and toast until fragrant, stirring once, 6 to 8 minutes.
- Whisk together remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, the lemon juice, maple syrup, and pepper in a serving bowl. Toss with reserved rice, roasted squash, scallions, and most of pecans and pomegranate seeds. Sprinkle with remaining pecans and pomegranate seeds.
Pomegranates Make Autumn Better
The health benefits of pomegranates are innumerable; but what makes them special is that apart from being healthy, pomegranates are delicious too. Prepare your own juice and drink it straight up, nibble on the seeds as a healthful snack, or use pomegranates in a variety of tasty recipes. Pomegranates are one of the great treats of fall eating, so enjoy this beautiful, unique fruit before it’s gone for another year.