One thing we look forward to in the fall and winter months is the availability of fresh pomegranates, which are in season now. Pomegranates are one of the world's oldest cultivated fruits. Native to Iran and India, archaeological findings show that they were grown and harvested by the Persians as far back as 2,000 BC. Today pomegranates continue to feature heavily in Middle Eastern cuisine.
Long used as a symbol of fertility, many scholars have often argued that Eve picked a pomegranate, not an apple, in the Garden of Eden.
The three most common pomegranate varieties in the US are the Wonderful, Red Wonderful, and Early Foothill. Their season runs from late September to January. When buying pomegranates, select fruits that are heavy for their size and have slightly browned skins. Pomegranates are one of the few fresh fruits you want to buy that don't look good on the outside. If the leathery rind is clean, smooth, and bright red, chances are the arils (that's what the ruby-red juice sacks are called) aren't sweet enough. The uglier the fruit looks on the outside, the more chance the inside is bursting with sweet arils.
To remove the arils, slice off the crown. Then cut the fruit in sections. Place the sections in a bowl of water and roll out the arils. The bitter white membranes will float to the top. Discard them. Strain out the water, and voila! You now have a bowlful of juicy arils. By the way, most people think they're supposed to suck on the arils and spit out the seeds, but few people know the seeds are edible. It's okay to eat them. They can be eaten just as they are, or juiced, or used in dips, sauces, and main dishes.
Some pomegranate recipes to try:
Recipe: Asian Pear, Fresh Date, and Pomegranate Salad
Recipe: Spiced Pomegranate Meringues
Several recipes from Pomegranate.org
(Image: Kathryn Hill)