How to Eat a Pomegranate
Some foods are just plain intimidating, and I’ve historically counted whole pomegranates among them.
Unlike other fruits, whose edible flesh lies directly under the skin, a pomegranate’s edible part is actually the hundreds of little juice-filled sacs that surround a seed (called arils) buried densely within its inner sanctum. So in order to access the goods, you need to open the fruit, excavate all of those crimson-colored arils, avoid staining your hands and clothing, and then figure out what to do with the arils once extracted.
That just seemed like a lot of work for a fruit that I wasn’t really sure I’d even like.
But like so many other foreign (to me) foods, pomegranates infiltrated my family’s kitchen via an encounter at a potluck meal, when friends of ours brought a homemade raita (Indian yogurt sauce) that was spiked with pomegranate arils. Their four year old daughter thought it was “red corn” and encouraged my son to pick some out and try them. He did, and being a veritable fruitarian, realized what we were dealing with: an entirely new fruit that he had yet to conquer. The incessant begging ensued, and I soon found myself in the supermarket produce section, resolving to figure out what to do with this strangely alluring/intimidating fruit– one that biblical scholars believe to be the actual “forbidden fruit” referred to in the biblical Garden of Eden story.
Here’s where my education has yielded thus far:
- How to select a pomegranate: I always rely on Aliza Green’s Field Guide to Produce when learning how to select an unfamiliar fruit or veg. And according to her, a pomegranate is at its best when it’s “large, brightly colored, shiny and firm to the touch.” She advises against picking fruits with cracked or shriveled skin, or those that are bruised or dull. You can store your pomegranate at room temperature for a couple of weeks, or in the fridge for up to a month. Arils can be frozen.
2. How to open a pomegranate: (See step by step photo montage below):
- Step away from any white furniture. Remove light colored clothing.
- With a large knife, like a chef’s knife, cut it through the equator.
- Take one of the halves, hold it seed side up, and very gently loosen the seeds by gently pulling back on the edges, as if you were trying to invert it, with your thumbs. (Applying too much pressure may split the pomegranate and make it harder to continue extracting the seeds.)
- Hold the pomegranate in one hand, with the seed side facing downward toward your palm, over an empty bowl. Smack the hell out of the pomegranate’s domed side with a wooden spoon repeatedly until all of the arils have rained down into your hand and the bowl.
- Repeat with the second half
- Refrigerate extracted arils in an airtight container until ready to eat.
Slicing pomegranate across its equator
Gently pulling back on edges to loosen arils
Proper positioning to extract the arils
Video: Smacking the daylights out of a pomegranate to extract the arils
3. What to do with pomegranate arils: So, the first thing you need to know is that the tiny seeds inside a pomegranate aril are edible. If you’re shy about chewing and swallowing them, you may find that pomegranates are an awful lot of work to eat, as each little drop of delicious fruit juice will require you to spit out a seed. Get over it and chew the darn seed. When you do, you’ll experience one of the pomegranate’s most endearing charms: the ability for a fruit to deliver both juicy, fruity flavor as well as a textured crunch. Here are some ways to enjoy them:
- Mixed into plain yogurt with a low sugar granola or muesli (my fave is KIND Healthy Grains, particularly some of their new uber-low flavors)
- Mixed into breakfast cereal or oatmeal
- Sprinkled on top of toast smeared with goat cheese, cream cheese or nut butter
- Tossed into a vegetable or fruit salad
- Garnish for a sweet autumn soup, like butternut squash or carrot ginger
- Sprinkled on top or hummus or labneh dips
- Tossed into cooked rice or quinoa for color, texture and a burst of sweet flavor
- Used in lieu of dried cranberries for any cooked grain salad, stuffing or green salad that calls for them (throw them in at the very end, just before serving)
- Mix with some almonds and dark chocolate chips as a snack
- Pair with rich, dark chocolate desserts, like flourless chocolate cake, chocolate pudding or pot de creme or just plain ol’ fudgy brownies
Nutrition info for fresh pomegranate:
A 1/2 cup of pomegranate arils contains about 70 calories and 12g of sugar (roughly equivalent to a small apple or 2 clementines), and has 3.5g of fiber. It’s got about 15% of the daily value for Vitamin C.