What is a Pomegranate?
Pomegranate, scientifically known as Punica granatum, is a long-lived, drought-tolerant shrub that produces red fruit and is surprisingly characterized as a berry. The pomegranate fruit has a hexagonal shape and is about 5-12 cm (2-5 inches) in diameter. It has many edible seeds, each within a juicy, fleshy aril (seed pod)(1). Pomegranate seeds can be eaten raw, or they can be juiced.
Where do Pomegranates Come From?
Dry and semi-dry zones are popular for growing pomegranate trees. They are widely grown in Iran, India, and Mediterranean countries such as Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Spain, and Morocco. Pomegranate trees grow both commercially and domestically in home gardens. Pomegranate trees have a long life cycle. They can live for at least 200 years! In the United States, California produces more than 90 percent of our pomegranates. The typical peak season is from September to December.
In the ancient world, a pomegranate was viewed as symbolic, artistic, and nutritious. The pomegranate was a symbolic fruit, signifying love, marriage, and fertility. Hebrews decorated buildings with beautiful pomegranate motifs. The motifs became associated with being a symbol of fertility and abundance. This symbolism was carried over into Asia where pomegranates were offered to wedding guests. The guests would throw them on the floor of the honeymoon suite, shattering their seeds. This practice was thought to ensure fertility and a large number of offspring for the newlyweds.
Picking a Pomegranate
When picking out a pomegranate look for a plump and rounded pomegranate. The deeper the color the sweeter the fruit will be. Old pomegranates will appear dried out, be lighter in color and shrink as the skin starts to close in on the seeds.
Deseeding a pomegranate can get pretty tricky and feel like a puzzle. This is one of the easiest ways to save you all the trouble:
- Fill a large bowl with cool water.
- Pomegranates are a sectional fruit. Take a paring knife and score from the flower-end of the pomegranate along the ridge, making about six cuts just through the peel. Avoid cutting into the seeds because that will create a juicy mess.
- Pull the pomegranate apart gently but firmly.
- Put the pomegranate into the bowl of water and pull the seeds out. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the water and the pith will float to the top. The water will help keep your hands clean.
- Collect the seeds on a sheet of paper towel to absorb excess moisture and enjoy!
Pomegranates are among one of the healthiest fruits on Earth and have several health benefits.
- Punicalagin and punic acid are very potent antioxidants. These are what brought pomegranates to fame.
- A powerful source of polyphenols which are phytochemicals that act as antioxidants. These counteract the damaging effects of free radicals.
- The antioxidant potential of pomegranate juice can be up to be 3x more than that of red wine and green tea! (3)
- Maintains or achieves healthy blood pressure by blunting the effect of sodium.
- Helps muscles contract and maintain fluid/mineral balance.
- 1 cup of pomegranate seeds provides 7 grams of fiber.
- Lowers cholesterol and improves GI function.
- Aids in attaining a healthy weight.
- One cup of seeds provides 30% of the RDA.
- Supports a healthy immune system.
- Essential for the growth and repair of tissues in the body.
- As an antioxidant, it fights free radicals to help delay certain cancers, promote healthy aging, and heart disease.
5 Ways to Enjoy Pomegranates:
- Sweeter Salads – Add a handful of this nutritional powerhouse to your salads to balance the bitter-flavored taste of greens such as spinach or arugula.
- Add a cool twist to your guacamole – This is great especially if you are entertaining. Adding pomegranate arils will make your guacamole look prettier, tastier, and more nutritious.
- Top off your morning – Adding fruits or pomegranate seeds to top off oatmeal or cold cereal makes it that much better.
- Get snacking – Pomegranate seeds are great to enjoy on their own as a low-calorie snack!
- Dress up your non-dairy – Add pomegranate seeds to plain dairy-free yogurt for some added sweetness and a powerful flavor boost.
Meet the Author: Diane Ramons
My name is Diane Ramos and I received my B.S in Nutritional Sciences/Dietetics from Rutgers University. I am currently attending the combined MS/DI program at the College of Saint Elizabeth in Morristown, NJ. It has been a very rewarding experience so far. In November I will graduate where I will then be eligible to take the National Examination to become a Registered Dietitian. I am interested in working one-on-one with clients in order to create healthy lifestyle changes through mindful eating and a non-diet approach. In my spare time, I enjoy cooking, hiking, trying out different cuisines (I am a foodie) and keeping up with the most current nutrition science information. I also hope to continue traveling in the future and immersing myself in different cultures. To keep up with me you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Follow my Instagram: Diane_Amelia_