Although most pomegranates are and have been cultivated throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and the Indian subcontinent for centuries, today the fruit can be found growing in California and Arizona. Besides being a wellspring of minerals, raw pomegranate seeds provide a whopping 12 percent of the daily value for vitamin C, and are an excellent source of dietary fiber.
Nutrition aside, pomegranate seeds pack a uniquely tart, flavorful punch and can be used in all manner of recipes. I’ve enjoyed them in salads and beverages, but have most often seen them used as a garnish. They are colorful on the plate, for sure, but in the end are usually discarded along with the ubiquitous parsley, lemon wedge, or rosemary sprig. It really is a darn shame…
Displays usually start appearing in markets and grocery stores as early as September and linger as late as February. This is their typical growing season for places north of the equator, and probably a reason they’re featured on many winter menus.
I confess that my pomegranate repertoire is rather slim. Mostly, I’ve distributed them upon salad plates. Mark Bittman, however, uses them alone in gelees and granita. And Andrew Dornenburg recommends pairing them with bananas, chocolate, cream cheese, or yogurt. It seems the options expand outward from there, but the real crux of the matter is their preparation. They can make quite a mess.
Bittman suggests breaking the segments apart underwater or inside of a plastic bag to prevent the juice from squirting all over. I second this method, as I’ve seen many chef’s whites ruined by the gore of unskillfully segmented pomegranate seeds.
Once the seeds have been carefully liberated and fully rinsed, they’re ready to use.
This year I’ve decided to explore the process of making flavored vodka with, you guessed it, pomegranates. I figure the unique color and zippy flavor will create a vibrant elixir and (possibly) an impressively distinctive cocktail to bring in the new year.