What’s so great about pomegranates?

What’s so great about pomegranates?

According to Greek myth, we have the pomegranate to thank for winter. The story goes that Persephone, daughter to Zeus and Demeter (the Harvest Goddess), was abducted by Hades and taken to the underworld. While her daughter was Hades’ prisoner, Demeter was so distraught, nothing grew and the earth began to die. Zeus negotiated Persephone’s return, but before Persephone left, Hades convinced her to eat the seeds of a pomegranate. She should have ran this by her attorney first, as it was law that anyone who ate anything in the underworld was doomed to stay there forever.  But being Zeus’s daughter (or because she only ate a few seeds), she was able to work out a deal and only had to stay half the year in Hades.  Hence, winter.

Pomegranates have always seemed to be more trouble than they’re worth. They certainly aren’t a grab-and-go snack.  The seeds will stain everything they come in contact with. And, unlike apples and bananas, pomegranates seem alien (as they would to a Canadian). And, as a Canadian, this whole winter business certainly doesn’t redeem them. I had many questions when I set out to write this post. How do you select them? How do you prepare/conquer them? And the really important question … why bother?

It turns out there are a lot of good reasons to add pomegranate to the mix. The last twenty years has seen an explosion of investigations looking at this strange fruit’s potential role in preventing and treating disease. This, because they are absolutely loaded with polyphenol antioxidants, notably tannins, anthocyanins, and ellagic acid, even more than those found in red wine or green tea. Some very encouraging research has shown pomegranate to successfully slow the growth of certain cancers – prostate, breast, colon and lung. And a lot has been made of pomegranate and heart health due to the anti-inflammatory properties they have. Consuming pomegranate juice is thought to reduce plaque that builds up in arteries and therefore reduce the risk of heart disease. And there’s more and more research being conducted in the area of Alzheimer’s, infertility, erectile dysfunction, dental plaque, diabetes and arthritis. Then there’s the history (thousands of years worth) where pomegranates were seen as sacred fruit, improving luck and fertility.

Sold!

Except there’s still the problem of what the heck one does with a pomegranate. Here’s what I’ve learned. When selecting a pomegranate you want to pick one that is deep in colour (whether red or auburn makes no difference). They should feel heavy, which indicates juiciness, and never select a pomegranate with broken skin.Ok, so now you have a perfectly ripe, deep coloured juicy pomegranate sitting on the counter. Wrong! It should be stored in the refrigerator.

Now what?

There are two ways of going about the process of removing the seeds. You can a) score the skin into quarters and slice the pomegranate open then knock the back of the shell until the seeds pop out into a bowl (seems tedious), or b) you can soak the sliced pomegranate in water – soaking helps separate the seeds from the pith and the seeds will easily separate and sink to the bottom. Drain and serve.

As for the serving? Well, they make a lovely garnish to green salads and fruit salads, or to top off yogurt.  Or how about using them to decorate cupcakes instead of those nasty food coloured sprinkles? I’m sure you can come up with something.

Please note: According to Dr. Thomas Behrenbeck, M.D., Ph.D on the Mayo Clinic’s website. While Pomagranate is relatively safe, he recommends discussing it with your doctor as it may interfere with certain medications. Pomegranate juice may cause dangerous side effects when it interacts with certain prescription medications, such as the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin) and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, including captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec) and lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril), and others.

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2 Comments

  1. Eric B.
    February 01, 00:04 Reply

    I sometimes use pomegranates to express myself. Like when I see something surprising, I’ve been known to yell out “Holy pomegranates!!!”. For example, “Holy pomegranates!!! Look at the size of that baby’s head!!”.

    Is that weird?

  2. Heidi Pyper
    February 01, 13:21 Reply

    Eric B…yes, it is a little weird.

    But a babies head does tend to be large in relation to the rest of their body. So it is not that weird that you would remark upon that.

    Nice to see you here.

    H

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