Nature's most labor-intensive fruit is about the size of a large orange and has a thin, leathery skin that can range in color from red to pink-blushed yellow. Inside are hundreds of seeds packed in compartments that are separated by bitter, cream-colored membranes. Each tiny, edible seed is surrounded by a translucent, brilliant-red pulp that has a sparkling sweet-tart flavor. Pomegranates are grown throughout Asia, the Mediterranean countries, Africa, India and in California. In the United States they're available from August through December. Choose those that are heavy for their size and have a bright, fresh color and blemish-free skin. Refrigerate for up to two months or store in a cool, dark place for up to a month. To use, cut the pomegranate in half and pry out the pulp-encased seeds, removing any of the light-colored membrane that may adhere. Be sure to wear an apron and gloves, as pomegranate stains are almost indelible. An easy way around the staining is to seed this fruit under water. Fill a sink with cold water, hold the pomegranate submerged in one hand and use a knife to cut it in half with the other. Use your fingers to pull apart the pomegranate, removing the membrane and seeds. The seeds will float to the water's surface. Pomegranate seeds can be eaten as fruit, used as a garnish on sweet and savory dishes or pressed to extract the juice. They're rich in potassium and contain a fair amount of vitamin C. Pomegranate juice has become immensely popular and can be found in supermarkets in a variety of permutations including plain or mixed with other juices such as cherry, tangerine or blueberry. Pomegranate molasses is a thick, syrupy pomegranate juice reduction that has a rich, tart flavor with a slightly sweet edge. It can be found in Middle Eastern markets and some gourmet markets and is used in Mediterranean dishes (such as in Turkey's muhammara) or as a marinade for grilled meats.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
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