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Byline: Natalie Haughton Food Editor

Pomegranates might be considered one of nature's fabulous fruit jewels. Nestled inside red, round leathery-skinned globes are beautiful ruby seeds or kernels (called arils) that spill, treasure-chest style, from paper thin, ivory honeycomb-like membranes.

These arils (containing juice and a tiny crunchy seed) - the edible part of the fruit - burst with tangy sweet flavor. (The bitter membranes and outer fruit skin are discarded.)

One of the oldest known edible fruits, pomegranates, thought to be native to ancient Persia (now Iran) and the Himalayas, were brought to the New World by Spanish missionaries in 1521.

Although pomegranates have been used decoratively and eaten out of hand in this country for many years (they're a staple in Middle Eastern cultures), it's only in the last decade that interest in culinary possibilities, sweet and savory, has increased with consumers and chefs alike.

In season August through December, pomegranates are now at their peak with 250 growers in California producing 95 percent of the domestic pomegranate crop, mostly in the central and southern San Joaquin Valley, notes Tom Tjerandsen, manager of the San Francisco-based Pomegranate Council. About 75 percent of the crop is consumed in the United States; the rest is exported to Japan, Mexico, Canada and other countries.

The Wonderful variety accounts for 80 percent of California's crop, with Granada, Foothill Early and Early Wonderful varieties making up the rest. While some seedless pomegranate varieties are available, there are no commercial plantings, says David Simonian, owner of Simonian Fruit Co. in Fowler, who has been growing pomegranates commercially for 30 years.

About 9,000 acres of pomegranates are planted throughout California this year, triple the number in 1993, points out Simonian. ``The crop size has grown yearly since the mid-'90s,'' adds Susan Hughes of the Pomegranate Council - ``and this year's is anticipated to be the largest ever - about 1.3 million (28-pound) boxes, up about 35 percent from last year.'' Pomegranates should be in good supply at markets, depending on where you shop.

Pomegranates are picked ripe and are available in sizes ranging from 9 ounces (size of a large orange) to 1 pound (grapefruit size). Select large red fruits that are heavy for their size.

``The heavier the fruit, the juicier the pomegranate,'' notes Simonian. Avoid pomegranates that are shriveled, split, cracked or dry-looking. Pomegranates are best stored in the refrigerator where they'll keep for two to three weeks - and sometimes longer, says Tjerandsen.

Store the seeds in an airtight container in the refrigerator and use within two to three days (before they shrivel up) or freeze up to three months. The juice can be frozen up to six months. You can freeze a whole pomegranate, points out Simonian, but the seeds will become soft as the cell walls break down; however, once thawed, the fruit can be juiced with good results.

Since the red juice of the pomegranate stains, the best way to cut one open is submerged in a bowl of water in the sink. ``It's a good way to get started, as the water helps prevent staining and splattering,'' advises Hughes.

When it comes to cooking, keep in mind that the seeds may darken when heated. For best results, heat the juice or make a glaze or sauce and then stir the seeds in at the end.

One medium pomegranate has about 105 calories and is a good source of potassium and vitamins C and B6. Figure that it will yield 1/2 cup juice and 3/4 cup seeds.

Natalie Haughton, (818) 713-3692



2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons sugar


1 pomegranate, seeded

1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 teaspoons finely chopped jalapeno pepper OR to taste

1 large clove garlic, finely chopped

2 avocados, preferably Hass, cut in 1/2-inch dice

1 head heart of romaine, about 7 ounces

4 (6- to 7-ounce) center-cut salmon fillets, each the same thickness

1 lime, cut in eighths for garnish

Mix coriander, sugar and 1 teaspoon salt; reserve.

Up to 4 hours before serving, make salsa by mixing pomegranate seeds, green onions, lime juice, jalapeno and garlic; gently fold in avocado. If holding more than 30 minutes, put plastic wrap against surface of salsa, then tightly cover; store in refrigerator. Remove about 30 minutes before serving.

Separate romaine leaves; rinse, then dry thoroughly. Reserve 4 of most attractive for garnish. Slice remaining leaves crosswise in thin shreds; reserve.

To prepare salmon, rub a generous teaspoon of reserved seasoning mixture over each piece. Arrange salmon on a baking sheet, skin-side down. Roast at 500 degrees about 11 minutes for medium rare and 13 minutes for medium-well.

While salmon cooks, mound 1/4 of shredded romaine on each of 4 serving plates. Top with some of salsa. When salmon is done, let it cool slightly; it should be warm but not hot. Put a piece of salmon on each plate; garnish top with remaining salsa, a reserved romaine leaf and 2 lime wedges. Makes 4 servings.


1 teaspoon cornstarch

2 teaspoons honey

1 cup pomegranate juice

4 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds)

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon olive OR vegetable oil

1/3 cup water OR chicken broth

2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds

Stir cornstarch and honey into pomegranate juice; set aside. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Brown on both sides in hot oil in a skillet over medium-high heat 5 minutes. Add water or broth; reduce heat. Cover; cook 5 to 6 minutes more, until chicken is no longer pink in center. Transfer chicken to a platter; cover. Drain fat from pan.

Stir pomegranate juice mixture; add to skillet. Bring to a boil; simmer 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon sauce over chicken and sprinkle pomegranate seeds on top. Serve with rice and steamed vegetables, if desired. Makes 4 to 6 servings.


1 cup pomegranate juice

1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries

1/2 cup chopped dried cherries, apples OR apricots

1/3 cup raisins

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons shredded orange peel

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1/2 cup chopped pistachio nuts

1/3 cup pomegranate seeds

In a medium saucepan, mix pomegranate juice, cranberries, cherries, raisins, onion, sugar, orange peel and cornstarch until well blended. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in pistachios and pomegranate seeds. Cool 15 minutes; if not using right away, place in a tightly covered container and refrigerate up to 2 weeks.

Serve over grilled meats or poultry, on sandwiches, mixed into rice pilaf, mixed with vinaigrette dressing or mayonnaise for dips or salad dressings or spooned over baked sweet potatoes or squash. Makes about 2 1/4 cups.


1 cup pomegranate seeds

1/2 cup golden raisins

1 pound cooked boneless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch chunks

1/3 cup toasted sliced almonds

1 apple, chopped

1/2 cup chopped OR thinly sliced celery

1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley

1/4 cup chopped green onions

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon curry powder (optional)

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper

In a large mixing bowl, combine pomegranate seeds, raisins, chicken, almonds, apple, celery, parsley, green onions and curry powder. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add to chicken mixture; toss well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve on salad greens. Makes 4 servings.


1 1/2 cups pomegranate seeds

1 tablespoon finely chopped OR grated orange peel

1 tablespoon orange juice

1/2 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon honey

1/4 teaspoon salt

Gently fold together pomegranate seeds and remaining ingredients. Serve with poultry, meats, fish, etc. Makes 1 1/2 cups.


1 1/2 cups pomegranate seeds

1/2 cup finely chopped green onions

1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped, green jalapeno pepper

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

Gently fold together all ingredients. Serve with poultry, meats, fish, pork, tacos, etc. Makes 1 1/2 cups.


1/3 cup pomegranate juice

1/4 cup orange juice

1/4 cup sparkling water

3 tablespoons vodka (optional)

In a large, tall glass, mix pomegranate juice and remaining ingredients; add ice cubes to fill up glass. Makes 1 serving.


1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons pomegranate juice

2 tablespoons sugar

1 cup pomegranate seeds

Thoroughly dissolve cornstarch in 3 tablespoons pomegranate juice; reserve. In a saucepan, bring remaining 1/2 cup pomegranate juice and sugar to a boil. Whisk in cornstarch mixture. Cook, whisking constantly, over medium heat until mixture clears and thickens, about 1 minute. Stir in pomegranate seeds. Let stand at room temperature until mixture cools. Spread over top of a chilled store-bought or homemade 9-inch cheesecake and chill until set, at least 2 hours before serving. Makes about 1 1/3 cups topping.

POMEGRANATE ICE CREAM OR DESSERT TOPPING: In a medium saucepan, whisk 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 1/4 cup pomegranate juice until well blended. Whisk in 3/4 cup pomegranate juice. Over high heat, whisking constantly, heat to boiling, then reduce heat to medium and boil 1 minute until mixture clears and thickens. Stir in 1/3 to 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds. Serve warm or cold over ice cream, atop dense chocolate torte slices, over angel food cake or fruit slices, etc. Keep sauce refrigerated and reheat, before serving, if desired. Makes a generous 1 cup sauce. Stir 1 teaspoon grated orange peel into sauce, if desired, for an orange pomegranate topping.

Pomegranates - and their juice - made easy

If you hate to juice or seed pomegranates, refrigerated 100 percent pure pomegranate juice and packaged pomegranate seeds are now available in stores. Look for fresh seeds in 8-ounce plastic containers ($3.59) at Trader Joe's stores (about 1 1/3 cups).

Los Angeles-based Pom Wonderful, the state's largest producer of the Wonderful variety of pomegranates, introduced four pomegranate juice varieties a year ago - Pom Mango, Pom Tangerine, Pom Blueberry and 100 percent Pomegranate Juice - and a fifth flavor - Pom Cherry - this year. Look for them in the refrigerated drink or produce sections of markets in 15.2-ounce bottles (the 100 percent juice is also available in a 24-ounce bottle). All are made from concentrated juice with natural flavors but no sugar added. The juices must be kept refrigerated. Once opened, they should be used within two weeks.

Although the flavor isn't exactly the same as fresh pomegranate juice, it's fairly close. We liked the flavor of the 100 percent product best (it wasn't overly sweet) and found it yielded excellent results in cooking.

Another related item you might want to try in cooking - pomegranate molasses (concentrated pomegranate juice, which has a syrupy consistency) - is available in markets specializing in Middle Eastern ingredients. It's an ingredient in many Middle Eastern dishes.

- Natalie Haughton


10 photos, box


(1 -- cover -- color) CULINARY JEWELS

Ruby-hued POMEGRANATES offer glorious flavor, texture

(2) no caption (half of a pomegranate)

(3 -- 6 -- color) How to seed a pomegranate

Work under water to avoid red pomegranate juice stains.

1. Cut crown off pomegranate. Lightly score pomegranate rind in several places.

2. Submerge in a large bowl of cold water and break sections apart, separating seeds from white membrane. Seeds will drop to bottom of bowl and white membrane will float to surface.

3. Skim off and discard membranes and rind.

4. Turn seeds into a colander, rinse, drain on paper towels and gently pat dry. Refrigerate or freeze seeds or juice as desired.






Pomegranate - and their juice - made easy (see text)
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Article Details
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Recipe
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 5, 2003

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