Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Five Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Pomegranates!

Since Weight Watchers** introduced their new Points Plus program, I have found myself enjoying much more fresh fruit than I had been before. It's a challenge to find good, tasty fruit in the winter since my favorite fruit of all time---the trusty apple---is hit-or-miss this time of year. There are few fruit-related experiences worse than biting into a mealy apple, so I've branched out to other, more seasonal fruits.

My favorite winter fruit so far---BY far---is the glorious POMEGRANATE!

Just look at that wonderful thing. Those juicy (and yet crunchy!) ruby kernels! The casual splash of juice in the middle. ALMOST LIKE SOMEONE STAGED THE PHOTOGRAPH! The kernels are bursting forth, waiting to eject their sweet nectar onto your taste buds. I eat pomegranate like I used to eat popcorn...at night, with great abandon, and often in a manner visually resembling a squirrel or hamster.
They are a bit pricier than an apple (my grocery store sells them for $1.70-$2.50, but I live in NYC so YMMV), but I only eat about half of one at a time, so that brings down the cost per serving.

You've probably heard the Greek myth starring the pomegranate: poor Persephone eats six pomegranate kernels in the Underworld and has to stay there with bitter old Hades for six months every year. Her mother Demeter, clearly the anxious Jewish Mother type, is so distraught during these six months that she can't concentrate on her job as Goddess of the Harvest...so thanks to Persephone, Demeter and the pomegranate we all get winter. Those Greeks knew how to tell a story, eh?

Here are a few things you may not have known about this fabulous fruit:

1. According to the Produce Picker Podcast, the best way to open a pomegranate is the following: cut the ends off the fruit. Make four score [and seven years] marks along the sides of the pomegranate. (You're basically quartering it, but not cutting the whole way through). Fill a bowl with water, then break the pomegranate into quarters with your hands and put the quarters into the bowl of water. Then pull the seeds apart in the bowl. The "pith," which is the white membrane in the fruit, will float to the top and the seeds will sink. You can then strain out the pith and keep the seeds! (Video demo here; this demo is geared towards "getting to our ultimate goal: the delicious seeds.")

2. Pomegranate is an extremely potent source of antioxidants and helps improve blood flow and prevent heart disease. It can promote a healthy blood pressure and prevent prostate cancer in men. (Source) However, the POM company (they make the juices in the wavy bottles) recently got in trouble with the FDA for claiming that their juice can also prevent heart disease...and erectile dysfunction...(clearly trying to get at the male market there, huh? Maybe take the hearts off your bottles before messing with the FDA?) (Source)

3. Pomegranates are in season in the Northern Hemisphere from September through May! Rejoice Northerners! Though our life is frigid and we curse cruel fate daily for placing us in this hemisphere, at least we can enjoy fresh pomegranate in winter! (Source)

4. To select the best pomegranate, pick one that feels very heavy for its size; weight is a sign that it's filled with juice! The skin should be dark or bright red and should not pucker or ripple when you rub it. Avoid fruit with cracks or bruises on the skin, as this may mean the fruit is no longer moist. A pomegranate can actually keep for up to SIX MONTHS in your refrigerator, but it will taste best if eaten in a few days. (Source)

5. Pomegranates have some ties to Judaism! There are supposedly 613 seeds in a pomegranate--and there are 613 commandments in the Torah! Coincidence? Judaism says no, and tradition actually teaches that pomegranates are a symbol of righteousness for this reason! The Bible even commands that images of pomegranates be woven onto the borders of Hebrew priestly robes. (Exodus 28:33-34) (Source)

So go forth, readers, and eat your pomegranates! (Just make sure to protect your clothes---the juice WILL stain!)

**Quick Weight Watchers tutorial for the newbs: The Weight Watchers program is basically a simplified version of calorie counting. Instead of calories, you get "points," which were derived from a formula that used to consist of calories, fat, and fiber. Calories and fat brought the points value up, fiber brings it down. All food has a point value, and you get a certain number of points a day, plus extra flex points to distribute across the week however you like. Weight Watchers recently revamped the program so that the new points formula includes fat, fiber, protein, and carbs and seems like a more complete measurement of the impact a food has on your body. It calls this "PointsPlus." The nice part is that no food is off-limits...you are welcome to have a slice of chocolate cake, but it's going to cost you 12 points. (Under the old system, I got 21 points a day. Under the new system, I get 29. And chocolate cake is still 12 points. SCORE.) The biggest downside of the old program, for me, was that fruit cost at least one point per piece, and some fruits, like bananas, were more. Under the new PointsPlus program, fruit is free! Let's face it...if a banana and a Skinny Cow Mint Ice Cream Sandwich cost the same number of points...well...I'm not always gonna pick the banana, alright?


Kathleen said...

I love pomegranates! If you haven't tried it, mix them with yogurt and cinnamon. Amazing!

Jewish Girl said...

Ohhh, that does sound good. I love crunchy cereal in my yogurt, and I bet pomegranate would be a lower-carb way to satisfy that. Thanks!

I'd also like to try making some sort of glaze for red meat using pomegranate.

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