Didn’t seed that coming: A new way with pomegranates?

pomegranate seeds on salad

A sprinkling of pomegranate seeds adds a bright touch to this simple green salad. (Photo by Laura Groch)

Cheery, colorful pomegranates are in season and ready to brighten our tables. Pomegranates are especially touted for their antioxidant properties these days, plus they are high in Vitamin C and a good source of fiber, says the POM Council.

But before we start cooking and eating, let’s decorate!

The fruits keep for a long time without refrigeration, so use them in a colorful display on your table or kitchen counter. Feature them in a large bowl or basket, and tuck in greenery, pine cones, cinnamon sticks or the like. Or mound them in a bowl with silver or gold round glass ornaments.

Now let’s talk juice. The flesh-covered seeds, called arils, are beautiful — once you’ve gotten them out of the fruit. But oh, the mess they can make! So I went online to see whether the Internet had come up with any new ideas.

Several videos demonstrated what I’ve now seen called the “fanning” method:

With a sharp knife, score the fruit in a circle  close to one end. Remove that part, then score the sides of the pomegranate where the white pith is showing — about 6 lengthwise slices. Then gently separate the pom into sections, invert it over a bowl, take a ladle or other hard kitchen tool, and start gently tapping the fruit. The seeds spill out magically.

I tried this on my poms, with mixed success. My fruits were a bit dry, so there wasn’t much “rind” to score, but I managed to separate the fruit into sections. Whacking — er, tapping — the fruit with a ladle did dislodge some seeds. (And some juice. My sink looked like a crime scene). But it sure didn’t get all of them.

I don’t want to completely dismiss this method — it may be perfect for plump poms. But mine weren’t, so I ended up using my tried and true way:

Get a deep bowl of water and put it in the sink. Cut the pom in half, then submerge it while you use your thumbs to break the fruit apart from the center. Gently separate the seeds from the pith. Some seeds will burst, but the water keeps them from splashing red juice everywhere, and the bits of pith will float to the top for easy removal. Strain in a colander, and voila! Lots of yummy seeds.

Now that you have those seeds, what to do with them? Well, they make a great garnish for salads. Sprinkle them on breakfast pancakes or waffles, or add to cereal or oatmeal. Making a fruit cup for an appetizer or dessert? Pomegranate seeds will brighten the presentation. Try spooning a few into a tall glass of sparkling white wine, or topping your ice cream with them! (And you can put them in a plastic bag and freeze them for later.)

Then there’s juice. Some ways to make juicing the seeds easy:

— Put them in a sturdy ziplock plastic bag, seal it, and then use a rolling pin to crush the seeds within the bag. Open (carefully), strain and drink.

— Put them in a blender and blend for a few seconds. Filter the results through coffee filters and/or cheesecloth until it looks clear, then drink.

Or just use a hand citrus juicer/reamer. One woman told me she sets up a board on sawhorses outdoors as a work station to do this. She cuts the fruit in half, uses the juicer to extract the juice, strains it and lets it sit overnight. Then she pours off the clear juice, which, by the way, is great for making jelly.

Use the juice as you would any other fruit juice — in salad dressings, baked goods, your favorite drinks (Pomegranate Margaritas, anyone?).

In short, the pomegranate has much to offer in everything from appetizers to drinks to main dishes and desserts, so don’t be afraid to sample these beautiful fruits. (Just wear red while you work with them, to be on the safe side.)

Here are a couple of recipes from the Pom Council:

SPICY POMEGRANATE RELISH

2 medium pomegranates, seeded, about 1 1/2 cups

1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion

1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped, green jalapeno pepper

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

Gently fold together pomegranate arils and remaining ingredients.

Makes 1 1/2 cups.

GARBANZO SALAD WITH POMEGRANATE ARILS

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/3 cup lime or lemon juice

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon cayenne

1 cup pomegranate arils

Two (15 oz.) cans garbanzos, rinsed and drained

1 cup peeled, diced cucumber

1/2 cup chopped mild onion

Salt and pepper

In a small frying pan over low heat, stir cumin until fragrant for 3-4 minutes. Scrape cumin into a large bowl, and add lime juice, sugar, chopped cilantro and cayenne. Add pomegranate arils, garbanzos, cucumbers and onion. Mix, and add salt and pepper to taste.

If you have any other ideas on seeding, juicing and/or cooking with pomegranates, I hope you’ll share them by leaving a comment below.

(c) 2014 Laura Groch

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