Pomegranates are an apple-shaped fruit produced from a shrub that grows quite tall (up to 10 meters) and originates in the middle east. Enjoyed since early biblical times, they can be used all sorts of ways in cooking: in both baked & savory dishes; fresh salads; juice/wine/smoothies and more.
Here’s a tipsheet on how to process them (harvesting those ruby nuggets of deliciousness), as well as some answers to frequently asked questions.
I also put a few tasty suggestions and serving ideas at the bottom of this page (including a recommendation for making a homemade molasses/syrup from them, so yum!).
- How do you eat them? Once you cut one open, you’ll see loads of plump, juicy red arils (this is the fruity flesh that covers and protects hard tiny seeds). These little ruby nuggets are the edibles that you consume.
- Do you spit out the hard inner seed or is it ok to swallow them? It’s up to you, some people eat them, some don’t. But they are perfectly safe to eat and are edible.
- What to look for when buying them? Ways to tell when they are ripe? They should be nice and shiny, bright in color and fairly large, firm and heavy for their size. Avoid those that have cracked, bruised, shriveled skin. Did you know: the larger a pomegranate is, the juicier it will be! The color will vary according to variety, it can range from a nice pink to a deep red.
- Any suggestions for storage and what’s their shelf life? You can keep whole fruit refrigerated for about a month or at room temperature up to three weeks. If you remove the arils first before storing, keep them refrigerated in an airtight container and they’ll last about five days.
- Can the seeds be frozen? Yes they can so stock up when they’re on sale! Pack in airtight containers or freezer bags and stack in the freezer for up to 3 months. If you want to process them so they’re individually frozen, arrange them on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet in a single layer, flash freeze for a couple hours then pour them into a container, seal tight and freeze.
- Is it ok to eat the white membrane or pith? This is bitter tasting and not pleasant to consume.
- How are they juiced? First soften the fruit by rubbing it back and forth along the counter or cutting board (use some pressure but don’t break the skin while doing this). This method helps break up the pieces inside and “warm” things up a bit. Once soft, cut out and remove the top “crown” and center white membrane. Next, position the pomegranate on top of a glass so the hole you just made is facing down inside the glass. The juice will run free into the vessel (squeeze as you do this to remove as much liquid as you can). If any seeds escape into the juice, just strain out with a piece of cheesecloth. You can also use a food processor or citrus juicer and strain out any bits before drinking.
- How many will it take to make a litre? One pomegranate should yield about 1/2 cup of juice, so you will need 8 to 9 pomegranates to produce a liter. Kept in an airtight container and refrigerated, this should have a shelf life of about 5 days. This can also be frozen, shelf life is about one year (make sure to leave about a 1/2 inch headspace).
- Problems with staining: Remedies for removing the red stains on skin? Handling and processing pomegranates can leave your hands stained, try squeezing fresh lemon juice onto your skin then sprinkle with a bit of salt, rub to work in the liquid then wash in soapy water.
- What is the method for cutting and peeling it? This can get a little messy and finicky, but here are a couple ways that make the job easy: First cut around the top “crown”, remove it and then pick out the center white core with a spoon. Score the outer rind into quarters (just cut through the outer red skin, not through the whole fruit) then break apart the pomegranate into those quarters (pulling them apart with your fingers). Once successfully in pieces, peel off any white pith then pop out the arils by pushing the quarters inside out. Another easy method: Cut the pomegranate in half, hold one half over a bowl (flesh side down), then wack the outer skin with a wooden spoon until those ruby nuggets fall out.
- Tricky Stuff: How to remove all the white pith from the arils? Put them in a bowl of cold water and the arils will sink to the bottom while the white pieces float on top. Drain off the white bits and enjoy the fleshy seeds!
Here’s a method of removing seeds by cutting the pomegranate in pieces then submerging them in a bowl of cold water, gently breaking apart the arils with your fingers. The seeds float to the bottom and the white pith floats to the top (it’s a combination of the last two tips above):
Ideas For Serving
- The seeds are delicious sprinkled over top yogurt, oatmeal, granola
- Liven up salads, they pair well with plenty of ingredients including spinach, lettuce, avocado, blue cheese, goat cheese, orange segments
- Add to frozen yogurt or ice cream
- Delicious when mixed in a rice pilaf or dish (either brown or white) as well as couscous and quinoa
If you have a bunch on hand that you don’t know what to do with, make a homemade molasses (or syrup)! This can then be used to drizzle over things like roasted vegetables, dips, hummus, desserts, mixed in salad dressings or used as a glaze on meats. It’s so easy to make and so delicious…well worth the minimal effort it takes to make! A recipe is found here at finecooking.com and only requires 3 simple ingredients. This has a shelf life of 6 months (if kept covered and refrigerated). Easy peasy!
Neat to Know: Make a homemade ink with the peels, instructions found here: fountainpennetwork.com.