Every once in a while we feature a fruit or vegetable because it’s health benefits are so amazing. This Fall, we would like to feature the Pomegranate.
The pomegranate (punica granatum) fruit is native to western Asia and the Middle East. It has a very long history of use. It was one of the first fruit trees spread by humans. Ancient cultures brought it to the Meditteranean region and other temperate regions. The pomegranate was held sacred by the ancient Egyptians, Jews, and Assyrians. Islamic and Christian art depicted it as a symbol of unity, longevity, and eternal life. All ancient medical writers mentioned its benefits for treatment of conditions ranging from fevers to tapeworms. It also was used as a contraceptive by ancient cultures and still is in some parts of Africa.
Could the pomegranate have been the “apple” in the Garden of Eden? Older myths of Middle Eastern and Meditteranean cultures connected it to agricultural abundance and spiritual well-being. Pomegranate was once referred to as malum granatum or “apple with many seeds”. It was also referred to in the first century A.D. as malum punicum or “punic apple”. The name pomegranate even derives from the French pommegarnete or “seeded apple”. Scholars and historians, thus, believe that it could have been the “forbidden apple” in the Garden of Eden.
Scientific Health Benefits
Pomegranate is a potent antioxidant and is proving useful in a host of age related problems, including heart disease. Its antimicrobial benefits may help fight infection. Estrogenic compounds found in the seeds’ oil and juice can help with difficulties of menopause and prevent certain cancers, especially of the prostate, breast, mouth, and colon. The juice, unlike most fruit juice, does not seem to raise blood sugar, which is especially exciting for diabetics.
How to Eat/Drink Pomegranate
Pomegranate does stain, which is why it was used as rouge and lipstick in ancient times. To prepare it with a minimum of mess, cut off the top (not stem), then cut the fruit into four or more sections. Put the sections into a bowl of water and pop out the seeds into the water. Discard the pith and rind. Strain out the water. The seeds may then be eaten as is (sorry, not if you have a diverticuli problem), added to recipes, or made into juice. To make your own juice, blend the seeds until liquefied. Then pour the juice through a sieve to remove the fibrous part of the seed. Tip: If you want juice without all the work, there are many delicious commercial brands available today. Make sure the label says 100% pomegranate juice. Also, pomegranate syrup, used in many Middle Eastern recipes, may be found in the ethnic foods section of most grocery stores. Following are a few easy recipes:
-8 oz. (1 cup) sparkling mineral water
-2 oz. (¼ cup) 100% pomegranate juice
-mint leaves (for garnish)
Mix the juice and water. Serve in a cocktail glass with mint leaves for garnish.
-½ cup honey
-¼ cup water
-1 quart pomegranate juice
-pomegranate seeds, optional
In a medium saucepan, combine honey and water. Stir over medium heat until boiling. Then reduce liquid to about 1/3 cup. Remove from heat to cool completely. Stir in pomegranate juice. Chill the liquid for about 2 hours in refrigerator. Transfer to ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s directions. Freeze in a covered container until firm. Serve on a chilled plate or in chilled glasses, garnished with mint sprigs and optional pomegranate seeds.
Pomegranate Molasses (Syrup)
This versatile, tangy syrup blends well with sweet nuts (walnuts/pecans) and beans. It sharpens the taste of poultry and fish and gives a piquant edge to salads. It’s also a great tenderizer for tough cuts of lamb and pork.
-6 cups fresh or bottled (100%) pomegranate juice
-¾ cup raw sugar or ½ cup honey/pure maple syrup
-½ cup fresh lemon juice
Place all ingredients into a heavy duty saucepan. Heat over medium heat to boiling, stirring often. Continue boiling until reduced to two cups. Cool, bottle, and keep refrigerated.
Fresh Summer Savory Salad with Pomegranate
-24 ten-inch sprigs of summery savory, washed, drained, and stemmed
-coarse sea salt
-1 packed cup mildly bitter greens, washed, stemmed, and shredded, or coarsely chopped parsley for milder salad
-¼ cup chopped scallions
-½ tsp. pomegranate molasses
-¼ tsp. peeled and crushed garlic
-salt to taste
-1 T. extra virgin olive oil
-1 tsp. fresh lemon juice or more to taste
-2 T. cubed tomato, optional
Use your fingertips to rub the savory leaves with a good pinch of sea salt; rinse and drain. (This removes the bitterness and releases the fragrance) In a small salad bowl, combine the leaves with the shredded greens and the scallions. Separately, combine the pomegranate molasses, garlic, salt to taste, oil, and lemon juice. Drizzle over the greens, scatter with cubes of tomato (if desired), and serve at once.
Classic Roasted Turkey with Pomegranate Syrup
-One 16-pound turkey, legs and giblets reserved
-1 celery rib, thinly sliced
-1 carrot, thinly sliced
-1 onion, thinly sliced
-6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
-8 thyme sprigs
-2 rosemary sprigs
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
-2 c. pomegranate molasses (syrup)
-4 c. water
-4 1/2 c. Turkey stock (see recipe below) or chicken broth
-1/4 c. plus 2 T. all-purpose flour
Directions: preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Set the turkey on a rack in a large roasting pan and scatter the sliced celery, carrot, onion, and garlic and the herb sprigs all around. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper. Add 2 c. of water to the pan and baste with 1/2 of the pomegranate syrup. Roast the turkey for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Add the remaining 2 c. of water to the roasting pan and baste frequently with remaining pomegranate syrup. Cover the turkey with foil and roast for about 2 hrs. longer, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the inner thigh registers 170 degrees.
-3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
-2 T. canola oil
-3 T. white wine vinegar
-2 T. Pomegranate molasses (syrup)
-1 tsp. pure maple syrup, optional to taste
-3 tsp. fresh lemon juice
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-11/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
-1/2 tsp. salt
-dash of freshly ground black pepper
Directions: combine olive oil, canola oil, white wine vinegar, Pomegranate Syrup, sugar, lemon juice, garlic, mustard, salt and pepper in a cruet or screw-top jar and shake well. Keep refrigerated and shake again before use.
Diabetes Forecast Magazine, April 2007.
Foster, Steven. The Desk Reference to Nature’s Medicine, National Geographic, 2006.
The Herb Companion Magazine, November 2007.
Wolfert, Paula. The Cooking of the Eastern Meditteranean, 1994.