One of my earliest memories is that of using money my grandmother had given me to buy candy to buy a pomegranate instead. Oh, how I loved them then and still do!
Now that we have our own pomegranate tree, we get to hang out in pom heaven come every November. We'll harvest over a hundred pomegranates from our one tree and store them to eat over the winter, or make juice out of them.
Here's some tips on what to look for when buying them, how to open them, store them, juice them, and how to use them in recipes:
How Do You Know When a Pomegranate Is Ripe?
Just because a pomegranate is red doesn't mean that the fruit inside is ripe. The longer the pomegranate stays on the tree, the darker, sweeter, and more intensely flavored the pomegranate arils (seeds) will be. So don't buy the first pomegranates you see showing up in the market. Wait a few weeks.
Then look for pomegranates that have deep red skin. The deeper the color of the red on the outside, the more ripe the fruit will be.
Hold the pomegranate in your hand. If it feels heavy, that's good! That means the arils inside are full of juice.
Don't worry if the skin is a little rough on the outside. In fact, if the skin is breaking, that's a good sign that the fruit is ripe.
We don't pick our pomegranates until they begin to burst at the seams. This usually happens a few days after a rain.
Why do pomegranates split? The fruit absorbs the moisture and the skin cannot contain them anymore. Once the skin has cracked to reveal the arils, the pomegranates must be picked immediately, and used up quickly, or they will get moldy.
How to Open a Pomegranate
The best way to get to the arils (seeds) is to first carefully cut out the crown. Then score the pomegranate with a sharp knife from crown to stem end in several (5 to 8) lines, following the soft ridges of the side of the pomegranate if you can see them.
Place your thumbs in the hole left by the crown and pull the pomegranate apart. Tear away the connecting membranes and remove the arils with your fingers over a large bowl.
You can do this over a bowl half filled with water if you want. The arils will sink to the bottom and the membrane will float on the top. Skim off the membrane and strain the arils of water. (See step-by-step photos in How to Cut and De-Seed a Pomegranate.)
How to Juice Pomegranates
To juice pomegranates, put the arils in a blender and pulse a few times, just enough to break up all the arils. Let the mixture sit for a minute for the hard seed bits to settle and use a rubber spatula to press through a strainer. Add sugar to taste if the juice is too tart.
How to Store Pomegranates
Pomegranates will last several months whole in the refrigerator. While the pomegranates don't ripen further after they're picked, the arils will get sweeter as the pomegranates age.
If a pomegranate has split to reveal the arils inside, you will need to eat up the pomegranate quickly. Mold has a way of setting in once the fruit has opened, even just a little.
If you have already de-seeded the pomegranate, you can put the arils in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and store for up to a week in the refrigerator.
To freeze pomegranate seeds, spread the arils out in a single layer then place in a freezer. Once frozen, consolidate them into a freezer bag or an airtight container. They'll last for up to 6 months frozen.
What to Cook With Pomegranates?
Pomegranate arils are wonderful on salads and garnishes for main dishes. You can also make pomegranate molasses, a syrup out of pomegranate juice to use in cooking, desserts, and drinks.
Here are a few pomegranate recipes you'll find here on Simply Recipes:
- Pomegranate and Persimmon Fruit Salad
- Golden Beet and Pomegranate Salad
- Jeweled Carrot Salad with Apple and Pomegranate
- Harvest Salad with Miso-Maple Roasted Butternut Squash
- Fesenjan Persian Chicken Stew with Walnut and Pomegranate Sauce
- Pork Chops with Pomegranate Glaze
- Eggplant Lentil Stew with Pomegranate Molasses
- Chiles en Nogada
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate-Balsamic Glaze
- Kiwi Pomegranate Salsa
- Maple Glazed Roasted Delicata Squash and Brussels Sprouts
Here are some terrific food blogs with recipes, tips, and discussions regarding pomegranates:
- Pomegranate and Pistachio Yogurt from Delicious Days
- Carrot and Pomegranate Soup from The Wednesday Chef
- Quince-Pomegranate Cranberry Compote on Seattle Bon Vivant
- Pomegranate and Walnut Chicken from Fresh Approach Cooking