In many ancient cultures the pomegranate fruit was a symbol of fertility, fecundity and prosperity. Symbolism aside, the pomegranate (also known by the botanical name Punica granatum) is a deciduous shrub which bears a lumpy round fruit filled with hundreds of tiny, sweet arils. Poms also have great health benefits associated with them but as versatile as the fruit is, it faces one major challenge: opening them takes effort—a little more than peeling an orange or banana. And the fact is, most people don’t know how to eat them.
There are several companies that offer packaged arils for easy consumption, but if you like to eat your fruit in the old school way, read on.
The Seed Inside
The aril is the seed of the fruit which is surrounded by a sweet, fleshy membrane. The aril is edible too, although they are small and can get stuck in your teeth.
Poms have great health benefits. They are believed to help slow prostate cancer and lower the risk of heart disease. They are low in calories and high in antioxidants and they do battle against free radicals which can cause cancer.
Pomegranates are in season from September through February in the Northern Hemisphere and March through May in the Southern Hemisphere which means consumers in the US can enjoy them for most of the year. California poms are available from October through January, so now is the time to try one if you haven’t yet.
How to Eat a Pomegranate
One of the biggest obstacles to enjoying the arils is freeing them from the rind. While it’s not as simple as peeling an orange, and eating one on the go presents a challenge, opening them is not as difficult as it seems.
Cutting the Pomegranate
There are two schools of thought on how to cut open a pomegranate. Before you do either, roll the pom around like you would an avocado that needs a little loosening up. This helps the seeds detach from the inside of the rind and will make them easier to remove once it is open. You can either score it around the middle (being careful to cut the rind but not the seeds) or you can quarter score it from top to bottom, also taking care not to cut too deep.
Removing the Pomegranate Seeds
Once you have scored the pom around the middle, gently pry the two halves apart. Place one half over a bowl and with a wooden spoon, tap the back of the fruit. The arils should fall out into the bowl.
If you have quarter scored the fruit, submerge the pieces in a bowl of water and remove the seeds by hand from each section.
Still unsure of how to remove the arils from a pomegranate? Watch this video.
Did it work? Was it worth it? For the pom I bought from my neighborhood produce peddler, some of the arils were sweet, a few were bitter and the fruit did appear to be rotting a bit on the inside. There was no way to tell that by looking at the whole fruit, however. There are definitely less expensive, less labor intensive fruits to consume than pomegranates, but as I mentioned above, fruit growers are packaging arils in a lot of different ways now so you don’t have to go through the trouble of removing the seeds yourself.
If you are really into pomegranates, then a de-seeder may be a good investment for you. Like this one for example:
Other ways the healthy aspects have been incorporated into products are:
Pomegranate seed oil is used to reinvigorate the skin, is believed it have anti-inflammatory properties and can also be used as a massage oil.
Pomegranate arils can be mixed in juices and smoothies, dropped in a boozy drink or glass of wine and used to top yogurt, cereal, salads and rice dishes.