Pomegranates would have to be one of my favourite fruits. I love their little jewels of red tartness, the tang they add to salads, the vibrant red brightening otherwise dull couscous or rice.
The general idea of this column (the first in a series of regular seasonal posts) is to talk about local produce, so the irony is not lost on me that my first post is about a fruit that is not grown in New Zealand. At this point, to my knowledge – if anyone has found a local supplier, I love to know about it!! Waimea Nurseries sell trees, so you could have a go at growing them yourself. According to Waimea’s website, they need “cold Winters and long hot, dry Summers. The fruit may not ripen if the summer season is too cool or too short”, which means finding a suitable growing location in NZ could be a challenge. Perhaps Hawkes Bay? (read a great story about growing pomegranates in NZ here)
Anyway, the majority of the commercially available fruit we get here comes from the US. Which is a shame, given challenges around sprays, provenance, long term refrigeration, quality control, etc. I guess on the plus side, we only eat the seeds of the pomegranate fruit, so if the fruit is washed prior to extracting the seeds, this will go some way to limiting chemical exposure issues.
So how good are pomegranates for you?
Pretty good as it turns out:
- It’s high in fibre, unsurprisingly given the volume of hard seed matter. This makes pomegranates wonderful for aiding digestion.
- Pomegranates are high in Vitamin C and K, both of which are important for boosting immunity.
- They’re high in Potassium, which impacts muscle control and blood pressure
- Pomegranates biggest selling point is the high level of antioxidants they contain. Livestrong.com says “The U.S. Department of Agriculture ranks pomegranate juice as the fifth strongest antioxidant behind baking chocolate, elderberry, Red Delicious apples and Granny Smith apples based on the oxygen radical absorbance capacity per typical serving.” Antioxidants are believed to protect against cell damage leading to cancer and other serious disease.
How do you get the seeds out?
The downside of pomegranates is getting the seeds out of the fruit, while leaving the bitter pith behind. My technique is to:
- Cut the fruit in half horizontally
- Place the cut side down into the palm of your hand, fingers slightly splayed
- Holding your hand over a bowl, hit the skin side firmly with a rolling pin, the handle of a heavy knife, or a muddler.
- The seeds will fall into the bowl. Pick out any remaining pith (there shouldn’t be much) before serving.
Or watch this video:
But how do you use them?
- In salads: trying adding pomegranate seeds to salads, along with toasted pistachios or almonds, sultanas, coriander or mint (depending on your preference) for a Moroccan spin. Finish the salad with a pomegranate molasses viniagrette for an extra flavour punch.
- To rice or couscous: Both rice and couscous are very bland, in both colour and flavour. The addition of pomegranate seeds adds both, while the seeds add texture. A traditional Moroccan recipe that really showcases pomegranates is Jewelled Rice, which is cooked rice, mixed with orange zest, pistachios and almonds, raisins, and pomegranate seeds. Try this recipe from Bon Appetit (change out the barberries for pomegranates), or this one from taste.com.au for a more simple version.
- For breakfast: Sprinkle over porridge, yoghurt or add to fruit salad. Add a squeeze of fresh orange juice and a small handful of chopped almonds for a taste of the Middle East.
- In champagne: This feels like Christmas in a glass! Pour 2 Tbsp of pomegranate juice into a champagne flute, fill with champagne and top with a few whole pomegranate seeds.
Or try my recipe for tabbouleh, based on a recipe from David Lebovitz’ book, my Paris Kitchen.
3/4 cup bulgur wheat
4 cups boiling water
1/2 cup mint, finely chopped
3 cups parsley, finely chopped
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 punnet cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 pomegranate, seeds removed
2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
- Place bulgur wheat into a bowl. Pour over boiling water and set aside for 45 minutes
- Drain wheat and combine in a large salad bowl with mint, parsley, red onion, cherry tomatoes and pomegranate seeds
- Pour over pomegranate molasses, olive oil and lemon juice, then season to taste
- Toss gently to combine, then serve.