By Mary Lynne Hixson, MA, RD
Last month Flourish with Food focused on seeds, a brain-healthy food associated with the MIND and Mediterranean dietary patterns. In the spirit of the holiday season, the pomegranate and its seeds are featured this month.
Fresh pomegranates are in season October through January. In the U.S., pomegranate trees are primarily grown in the dry zones of California and Arizona. The pomegranate, a round and red fruit, has a bitter white spongy wall and densely packed arils. The ruby red aril is the edible portion of the pomegranate. While the aril is referred to as the seed, the actual seed is encased in its thick juice sac. Supposedly, each pomegranate has around 200 arils (I’ve never counted).
Once a pomegranate is cut … how are arils removed? My method: cut the pomegranate into 4 segments, revealing the arils. Submerge a segment in a deep bowl of water and thumb-loosen the arils while under water. This lessens the risk of bright red juice splashing on clothing, etc. Throw away any brownish, mushy arils. For a slightly different removal method: https://www.pomwonderful.com/how-to-open.
Admittedly, loosening the arils is a hassle. The crunchy juicy eating experience, though, makes it worth your time. Plus, pomegranates are nutrient-rich, especially in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.
Thankfully, arils are available in a refrigerated area of the market. They are pricy but a significant time saver as a visually appealing ingredient or garnish.
Arils have a pleasant sweet-sour taste and a delightful crunchy texture. They can be eaten by the spoonful as a snack, tossed in salads or salad dressing, mixed in yogurt, and to heighten the visual appeal of a side or main dish recipe.
Considering storage: Pomegranates stored out of direct sunlight last up to a couple weeks at room temperature. They can last a couple months in the refrigerator. Arils stay fresh for 1-2 weeks in the fridge and can be frozen up to a year.
While arils can be home-pressed into juice, bottled pure pomegranate juice (without added sugar) is available on the juice shelf or in a refrigerated case. The juice is moderately tart, resembling the taste of sour grapes or cranberries. Mixing with club soda or sparkling water softens the tartness, resulting in a fizzy refreshing beverage.
When juiced, pomegranates lose much of the vitamin C and fiber. However, potassium and the healthful antioxidant and the anti-inflammatory properties remain.
An important alert: The juice may interact with certain medications, notably some for high blood pressure, cholesterol-lowering, and blood thinning. While possible, pomegranate allergies are rare.
For wonderful aril and juice-based recipes (check out the festive alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks): https://fruitsandveggies.org/fruits-and-veggies/pomegranate/?view=recipes
Sparkling Quinoa Salad
Whisk together 2 Tbs. olive oil, 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar, and ¼ tsp. salt. Toss with 2 c. cooked, cooled quinoa, ¼ c. chopped mint and/or parsley leaves, 2 peeled and sliced clementines, and ½ c. pomegranate seeds. (Source: my recipe box)
About Mary Lynne Hixson, MA, RD:
Mary Lynne, a registered dietitian, helps others enhance their health through the advocacy of nutrient-rich food choices and safe food-handling practices. Her expertise also includes counseling patients who have Type 2 diabetes and advising those who are in medically managed weight loss programs. After her 35+ year career, she retired and became involved with the launch of Harvest of Hope Pantry in 2012 as a Board of Directors member. Mary Lynne is a weekly volunteer with Cultivate’s Carry-Out Caravan program, shopping and delivering groceries to seniors in the Boulder area, and also a frequent volunteer with Harvest of Hope.
Help seniors flourish by reconnecting them—as recipients and contributors—with their surrounding communities.