Royal Fruit

October 16, 2009

Did someone say pomegranates?

This Christmas ornament-looking fruit is showing up in supermarkets nationwide because fall and winter are the season!

Originally from Persia, pomegranates are the new darling of the antioxidant world. Ruby red with hundreds of seeds called pips that sparkle like tiny rubies, pomegranates are tart sweet, a good source of vitamin C and potassium, and can keep you healthy in flu season.

In Italy they are called melagrana, and they grow on shrubs just about everywhere, dangling on slender stems like Christmas ornaments. Italians love them, and consider them royal fruit because they appear so much in Renaissance paintings.Pomegranates were also thought to be the “apple” that Eve plucked in the Garden of Eden.

When you ask Italians how they use them, they just smile and say, “Mangia cosi!” That means just tossing the pips in your mouth and enjoying them naturally. I don’t recall seeing too many recipes in Italy for pomegranates other than as garnish for salads in upscale restaurants or as gelato. Italians like to keep things pure and simple.

California is our source for pomegranates in the U.S., and when they are in season, I grab as many as I can and squeeze them for their juice. I also freeze the seeds to use in salads and sauces, and one of my most requested recipes using them is for a ricotta cheesecake with pomegranate sauce.

Pomegranates are also used to make granadine, a syrup used in cocktails. When you buy them, look for plump, round, and heavy fruit with a deep red color that is blemish free. A large pomegranate will yield about 1/2 cup of juice.

Have you tried them yet this fall?

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