Monday, November 7, 2011

Autumns Garnet Jewel


For several years my food column, A Reason for the Season ran in baltimore eats, a charming and informative publication that was all about food. My assignment was to profile seasonal fruits and vegetables, a perfect fit given I'm so passionate about eating foods in their growing season. After about three years, the family owned magazine was sold and became an online only publication. 

A Reason for the Season gave readers the kind of information I like to learn about a fruit or vegetable, like the span of its' season, what to look for when buying, suggested uses, nutritional information and if space allowed, a culinary related story. I'm featuring pomegranates and what I call Autumns Garnet Jewel because this superfood is so worthy of getting to know and besides it's in season right now!

The name pomegranate originates from Middle French, pomme garnete, literally "seeded apple"; and is sometimes referred to as a Chinese apple. Many researchers believe that the forbidden, yet irresistible fruit that Eve indulged from the Garden of Eden was actually a pomegranate, not an apple!

For centuries pomegranates have been cherished for their exquisite beauty, color, flavor, and health benefits. Pomegranates are one of the healthier foods you can eat. High in antioxidants, potassium, Vitamin C, and a great source of fiber, pomegranates pack a nutritional punch that most foods can’t come close to!

From their distinctive crown to their ruby red arils, pomegranates are royalty amongst fruit. They are symbolic of prosperity and abundance in virtually every civilization. Fortunately, this treasure’s versatility and possibilities are as abundant as the juicy arils bursting forth from within. 

Add pomegranate seeds to frozen fruit smoothies, use as a garnish for frozen vanilla yogurt or ice cream, iced cupcakes, soft cheeses, fish, scallops, chicken, pork, duck and lamb. The seeds add interest to lettuce leaf salads or for a bit of culinary drama scatter them over a variety of vegetables like cauliflower, parsnips, green beans and spinach. Or turn your pomegranate seeds into sauces, sorbet, salad dressings, jelly and relish. The possibilities for these garnet colored, nutrient-rich seeds are endless. 

Pomegranates season generally runs from October through January. They're picked when they're ripe, so they're ready to enjoy as soon as you buy them. A good, ripe pomegranate should feel heavy, and the skin should be firm and taut. The skin color varies from medium red to deep red with a fresh, leather-like appearance. Surface abrasions do not affect the quality of the fruit. Keep fruit refrigerated until ready to use. 

To prepare, cut off the crown and score the pomegranate lengthwise in three or four places. Place the pomegranate in a large bowl of water. While holding the fruit under water, split the sections and separate the seeds from the section walls. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl. Remove the white membrane and peel and drain seeds. If you’re not using all the seeds at once, transfer to a container with a tight fitting lid and store seeds in the refrigerator, they will last for several days.