Pomegranates are positively nutrient-rich, delicious

Published 11:59 pm Friday, November 13, 2009

What are those big red things that you see around the holidays with the thick, leathery skin? They are known as pomegranates and they are native to Southwest Asia, but the fruit is also grown in California and Arizona. My husband has produced some small ones this year but I have never cooked with them so here comes the research and recipe trials.

Pomegranates are loaded with hundreds of bright red, edible pulp-covered seeds which can be added to drinks, salads, and main dishes. They are available September through February, but we often see them appearing during the holidays as they are used in decorations because of their beauty.

Pomegranates are enjoyed for their seeds and juice. The juice extracted from the whole fruit contains antioxidants at much higher levels than other fruit juices. In test studies, pomegranates decreased oxidative damage associated with cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

In some studies, two glasses of juice a day can reduce blood pressure, the risk of recurrent heart attack, and clogged arteries. I have bought the juice and found it delicious but it is quite expensive.

Pomwonderful is certainly doing a lot of advertising of their juice. Some nutritionists are concerned about the amount of calories from sugars in the juice. The seeds add fiber not found in the juice. The seeds can be frozen to keep on hand for eating year-round. So maybe the seeds are the way to go.

I always had a problem with cutting this fruit. To open, cut off the crown, then slice the fruit into sections from top to bottom. Put the sections in a bowl of water and remove the juice pods, called arils, with your fingers.

November is National Pomegranate Month – so a great month to try this nutrient-rich fruit. Here are some recipes to help you along.

These recipes are from the November 2009 issue of Better Homes and Gardens.

Wilted Chicken Salad with Pomegranate Dressing

Serves 4

¾ cup pomegranate juice

1 14-16 oz package, chicken tenderloins

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ medium red onion, cut lengthwise in thin wedges

1 tablespoon snipped fresh oregano or ½ teaspoon dried oregano, crushed

¾ coarsely ground black pepper

½ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 6-oz. package baby spinach leaves

½ cup pomegranate seeds

¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted

In a small saucepan bring pomegranate juice to boiling; boil gently, uncovered, five to eight minutes or until reduced to ¼ cup. Remove from heat; set aside. Meanwhile, in a 12-inch skillet cook chicken in 1 tablespoon hot olive oil over medium-high heat six to seven minutes or until chicken is no longer pink, turning occasionally. Remove from skillet. Keep warm.

Add onion, remaining oil, dried oregano, (if using), pepper and salt to skillet; cook three to five minutes or just until onion is tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in reduced pomegranate juice and vinegar; bring to boiling. Boil one minute. Remove from heat and stir in fresh oregano (if using). Gradually add spinach, tossing just until spinach is wilted and combined.

Serve in a large shallow dish. Top with chicken, pomegranate seeds, and nuts. Serve immediately.

Pomegranate Rice

6-8 servings

1 shallot, chopped

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 cup jasmine or long grain white rice

2 teaspoons grated ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 14-oz. can reduced sodium chicken broth

¼ cup water

½ cup roasted salted pistachio nuts

1 cup pomegranate seeds

Lemon peel strips

In a large saucepan cook shallots in hot oil over medium heat three to five minutes or just until tender, stirring occasionally. Add rice, ginger, and cinnamon. Cook and stir five minutes or until rice begins to brown.

Carefully add broth and water to rice. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 14 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand, covered, 10 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.

Stir in nuts and pomegranate seeds. Sprinkle lemon peel.

Roasted vegetables are just the best. Try these veggies with a hint of Indian spices and pomegranate seeds.

This recipe is from the November 2009 issue of Food and Wine.

Spiced Vegetables

with Pomegranate Seeds

12 servings

4 medium carrots (3/4 pound), peeled and sliced, 1/4 inch thick on the bias

2 large parsnips (1 pound), peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick on the bias

1 medium head cauliflower (2 ½ pounds), cut into 1-inch florets

1 small butternut squash (2 pounds)-peeled and cut into 1-inch dice

1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika

1 ½ teaspoons cumin

½ teaspoon cayenne

½ teaspoon coriander

1 ½ cups feta cheese

1 cup pomegranate seeds

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl toss the carrots, parsnips, cauliflower, squash and Brussels sprouts with the olive oil, paprika, cumin, coriander and cayenne. Roast for 55 minutes, tossing halfway through. Toss the roasted vegetables with the crumbled feta and pomegranate seeds before serving..

I’m afraid my husband didn’t think the pomegranate seeds added much. If you choose the very red seeds they can add a lot of color to the dish. The seeds are dried and ground (anardana powder) in India to be used in chutneys and curries as an acidic agent. Some people like to eat the fruit, chewing the seeds to get more juice.

The pomegranate is worth growing for the beauty of the flowers and the beauty of the fruit even if you don’t find the fruit to your taste. The plant is a bush or small tree. It is drought tolerant; in fact there can be problems in wet climes so make sure the soil is well drained. The tree is frost tolerant to about 14 degrees.