November 22, 2005

Pomegranate HowTo

Open!I’ve created a Flickr Set detailing how to disassemble a pomegranate for those interested in my technique. No doubt those who have been eating pomegranates for years will either be familiar with this method, or will have their own, better methods. I offer this for the curious.

Flickr Photoset: Pomegranate HowTo

I’ve been eating these fruits ever since my grandfather started buying them for me as a treat when I was too young to remember just how young I was. It was always a very special thing. Where some people see a lot of trouble to go through (getting newspaper so you don’t make a mess, etc) I see a sort of ritual that signals you’re doing something fun and special.

Going through trouble for something you enjoy isn’t trouble at all. It’s anticipation, preparation, and the actual execution of an enjoyable event.

Pomegranate, Flower-EndOne thing I do not detail in this photoset is the mess that the juice can make. I probably should have taken a photo of that (maybe I’ll add one next time) but part of my point here was to dissect the fruit and spilling the least possible amount of pomegranate juice. You’ll see in the pictures that I did just that. Really, barely any drips occurred. Once you get good, you can eat a pomegranate without dripping anything. However, sometimes especially with a really ripe fruit, drips cannot be avoided. Thus, the newspaper.

Additionally, don’t wear really good clothes. The seeds can squirt if you are squeezing too hard, or if you break a seed unexpectedly.

Pomegranate Facts!

  • Cleopatra used pomegranates to stain her lips red. Early lipstick!
  • Pomegranate is called “Granada” in Spanish and “Grenade” in French.
  • Although grown in parts of this country (CA and AZ) the pomegranate is a native of Iran and has long been cultivated throughout the Mediterranean.
  • You may see “Pom Wonderful” on some pomegranate juice bottles. “Wonderful” is a particular cultivar of pomegranate known for better juicing.
  • The pomegranate has been used to symbolize a number of things, including the in dissolution of insolubility of marriage. For instance, it is used in Greek mythology by Hades to bind Persephone to him.
  • Recent studies are confirming some health benefits of pomegranate juice, including its effect on the prevention of prostate cancer.
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[CORRECTION, noted above. I meant the insolubility of marriage. Come on people, someone should have picked up on that. The pomegranate is a symbol of a strong bond between two people.]

[UPDATE: Someone has noted on another site that I don’t tell you how to eat it once it’s opened. You can remove the seeds by hand and use them in cooking. Or you can chew the seeds and swallow them. Or you can chew the seeds gently to release the juice, suck down the juice and spit out the seeds.]

Posted by James at November 22, 2005 1:41 AM
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Comments

Thanks. I guess my reading comprehension is poor when I read your textual description, because I typically do it much the same way, but with an important difference.

The point here is to just cut the skin, not go too far deep into the fruit.

I usually just get a big knife, and cut the fruit into 4 sections, and that is where the mess begins. I'll have to try it your way, which in hindsight (isn't that always the way) seems like an obvious way to avoid the mess.

Posted by: Jim at November 22, 2005 7:45 AM

The way you describe is the way I did it for at least two and a half decades.

It was fun taking the pictures. Pomegranates are neat.

Posted by: James at November 22, 2005 9:28 AM

Your pomegranate disassembling technique is unstoppable!

I usually just cut it in half and pick the seeds out and eat as I go. For me, it's kind of like a treasure hunt.

I have to say, though, that your technique is much more efficient and I may have to try it next time.

Thanks, James. You ought to think of sending this to a cooking site or magazine (Cook's Illustrated comes to mind).

Posted by: Patti M. at November 22, 2005 10:30 AM

Looks great. If you really want to avoid a mess - do it exactly the same way you identified, but after it's in managable sections, submerge the pomegranite in a big bowl of water. The seeds float to the surface.

Posted by: Sarah at November 23, 2005 8:18 AM

She's a genius. (She's a genius. She's a genius. ;)

Posted by: Julie at November 23, 2005 8:32 AM

I found a site which was cached on Google even though the page was no longer online. It recommends heating the pomegranate for 30 seconds in the microwave. This will soften the skin and rind and make seed removal much simpler.

Here was the section on pomegranate.

Pomegranates

If you have no patience for seeds, then this is not the fruit for you. Every pomegranate is composed of exactly 840 seeds, each surrounded by a sac of sweet-tart juice contained by a thin skin. The seeds are compacted in a layer resembling honeycomb around the core. The layers of seeds are separated by paper-thin white membranes which are bitter to the tongue. The inner membranes and rind are not generally eaten due to high tannic acid content, but they are useful as a skin wash.

You can eat the fresh fruit by chewing on the seeds to release the juice from the sacs and then swallow seeds and all. The seeds are considered good roughage to help cleanse the body. In India, the seeds are dried and ground into a powder to be used in meat dishes.

One method to get just the juice is to vigorously roll the fruit on a hard surface to break the juice sacs. When the fruit is soft, puncture the end, insert a straw, and suck out the juice, squeezing as you go. Obviously, there is a fair amount of waste in this process.

Early fall is prime time for pomegranates, October and November in the northern hemisphere, but they are usually available into early winter. The fruit is about the size of an orange. The rind color can range from yellow-orange to deep reddish-purple.

Fruits should be plump and round, heavy for their size, with a rich, fresh color and should be free of cuts and blemishes. Larger fruits promise more juice. The seed sacs are about the size of your pinky fingernail. The pips are very similar in appearance to a corn kernel, but reddish, a bit translucent, and have a thinner skin. Pomegranates are not a fruit that will ripen once picked, so once harvested, they will not continue to develop sugar. Yet commercial crops are harvested before they are fully mature, in order to avoid excess bruising during transport.

Whole fruits can be stored for a month in a cool, dry area or refrigerated up to two months. The seed pips can be frozen in an airtight bag up to one year. Fresh juice should be refrigerated and used within two to three days.

Heating about 30 seconds on high in the microwave for a regular size pomegranate will soften the skin. Score the skin from top to bottom in two places and peel it back. The seeds just wipe out as you pass your finger over them. You may need to roll the fruit over and do 30 seconds on the other side when they don't come out readily. Be careful. It's easy to overdo the heat and get mush instead of seeds. If the skin is really dry and hard, run water over it before putting it into the microwave.
Posted by: Chuck S. at November 25, 2005 10:31 AM
Looks great. If you really want to avoid a mess - do it exactly the same way you identified, but after it's in managable sections, submerge the pomegranite in a big bowl of water. The seeds float to the surface.

I just tried this as an experiment, and I found that the rind floats and the seeds sink like rocks. They only float if they've got a little rind attached to them.

However I found that working underwater was the cleanest way to strip the seeds out. When the occasional seedburst happens, the juice doesn't spatter all over everything because it is underwater.

I also tried heating briefly in the microwave (10 seconds or so) and found that did indeed loosen up the seeds.

Posted by: Chuck S. at November 25, 2005 11:10 AM

I would probably only use the water if I were using the seeds for cooking. Right now I have no problems eating the seed right off the rind.

I've never really had a problem with tough pomegranate skin, or with eating the seeds right out of the fruit, so I probably wouldn't microwave one. Especially since I like them cold.

However, if it loosens the seeds, it might be an advantage if you were in a hurry and wanted to remove the seeds for cooking. I'd be afraid of heating it for more than 10 seconds, though. The seeds are useless once they burst, and that would be a tragedy. Microwaves don't heat evenly, and I wouldn't trust a pomegranate to such an imprecise device.

Posted by: James at November 25, 2005 3:18 PM

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