The name pomegranate comes from the Latin pomum (apple) and granatum (seeded) but also has roots in an old French term: pomme-grenade (literally apple-grenade, referring to how the fruit looks like a hand grenade, or a cartoon version of a bomb). A confused use of the name was in heralds and family crests having to do with the Spanish town of Granada (Apple of Granada), even though one came from Latin and the town name came from Arabic.
Historically, grenadine syrup was made from of thickened and sweetened pomegranate juice, but nowadays is based primarily on black currants and other flavorings. There is a brand called Bols in Europe that is still made using pomegranate juice. Where grenadine today is used almost exclusively in making cocktails, the original pomegranate based syrup (often with ground walnuts added) was actually used in Middle Eastern cooking to make a sauce, used in the same way tomato sauce is used today.
When picking a pomegranate directly from a tree (if you're lucky enough to be in such a climate), you don't want one with any green skin. A ripe pomegranate can have a range of color, from pink to deep red.
The one's we saw growing in Italy were almost a Barbie pink. It should feel heavy for its size and should break off the tree without much effort. If it fights you, leave it on the tree to ripen more. When the fruit is no longer shiny it is nearly over-ripe. When picking them in a super market, be careful... I have selected perfectly looking, shiny skinned pomegranates that have a rich red color only to find they are almost rotting on the inside. Perhaps growers are tinkering with the genetics to give a good looking, long lasting package on the outside just so they can sell to supermarket chains. If you get a bad one (which admittedly is rare) take it back. Personally, I like ones that are mottled with a deep red color... they are usually the most ripe.
First of all, you need to get the seeds out of the fruit. The easiest way is to score the skin, break apart wedges of the fruit and then place them into a large bowl of water. Work the fruit gently with your fingers to release the "rubies" from the rind. The skin and pulp will float to the top, the seeds to the bottom. Remove the pulp and skin and drain.
Consider using pomegranate seeds or juice (or both) in your recipes. The tart-sweet taste goes well with chicken, pork or lamb. Adding seeds into salads are a natural. The juice reduces well when sauteing, and the whole seeds will look beautiful when tossed into a sauce or a salad. And you can try them for cocktails too: bellinis, margaritas, sangria or smoothies all work well with the additional bright flavor of pomegranate. And nothing can be better than a butternut squash soup topped with pomegranate, or try a ham or turkey risotto flavored with pomegranate juice and topped with seeds. And for a surprisingly good dish, try a reduction of pomegranate over salmon sprinkled with the seeds.
Eating pomegranates can reduce the signs of aging... at least, that's what some say. They are very rich in antioxidants and are considered a Heart Healthy snack. Thanks to its high content of vitamin C, pomegranate is also a natural food that benefits out immune system--especially welcome in flu season. They also contains substances useful to protect the kidneys from dangerous toxins, with a positive impact on the liver.
Eating the fruit--and the seeds--can also help lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure and prevent vascular disease. Eaten in the fall, it might also help with your seasonal allergies. There are some studies that show the fruit helps in lowering the instances of certain cancers, like breast and prostate. Its juice can work as a laxative and can stimulate appetite, help to combat nausea and hemorrhoids, as well as intestinal parasites such as tapeworm.
Just about everything about pomegranates is good for you, but if you indulge too much they can make you drowsy... spill some on your clothing and the stain will be very difficult to remove. My recommendation: Eat as much as you want, take a nap afterwards and wear a bib.
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