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I’m always grateful for the internet because you can learn more than just casual knowledge about things that you otherwise just pick up at the produce market when it’s in season. I know that pomegranates seem to have their own bandwagon, with popular food culture still riding it. I can confirm that, like the advocado and California Cheese, the Pomegranate does have its own Council. Did you know that the individual seed of a pomegranate is referred to as an aril? Not me. I learned that today, surfing.

Pomegranates are a distinctive fruit whose smooth and slightly tough exterior belies the dense, complex profusion of tightly packed seeds underneath. The fruit appears in the produce stands around this time of year but the pomegranate flavor has permeated the world of brands that put fruit on a pedestal and are always looking or the next great thing – beverages, yogurts and hair and skin products. The popular Pinkberry’s signature flavor of frozen yogurt is the tangy tart pomegranate.

The pomegranate is both the great new thing and one of the oldest fruits known to mankind. According to the Pomegranate Council, “Many scholars believe that the forbidden – yet irresistible – fruit in which Eve indulged within the Garden of Eden was actually a pomegranate (and not an apple).” This makes sense when you think about the climate of the probable site of the Garden of Eden. The pomegranate, you may remember, is also featured in the story of Persephone becoming the bride of Hades and a pomegranate played a role there too – as the forbidden fruit she was not supposed to eat.

The name pomegranate derives from the Middle French ‘pomme garnete’ – literally “seeded apple.” Sometimes it is referred to as a Chinese apple. Also, for you etymologist/mixologists out there, grenadine syrup is so-called because it was traditionally a concentrated pomegranate extract and grenade and granate share the French root for seeds. Currently, the most common grenadine syrup in the U.S. is Rose’s (also the famous Rose’s Lime Juice folks), though it no longer contains pomegranate in its ingredient list. It’s leading ingredient is HFCS.

Some food facts about Pomegranate, the fruit:

One medium sized fruit contains:
• 100 calories
• 1g of dietary fiber, equal to 4 percent of the recommended daily value
• 4 percent recommended dosage of vitamin A
• 15 percent daily value of vitamin C
• 2 percent daily value of iron

Why my big interest in pomegranate all of a sudden? It began with my salad dressing recipe that uses pomegranate concentrate and contributes mightily to the goodness of my broccoli slaw recipe. Over the summer, I had a minor crisis in that I couldn’t find Knudsen’s pomegranate concentrate any more. I tried some other vinaigrettes but these were not a success. My daughter did not mince words in her response to the attempts to work without my regular dressing: the broccoli slaw was a non-starter if it did not have that pomegranate-based dressing. (The recipe lives on my Low-Sodium Recipes page.) I was going to have to find another brand of pomegranate concentrate or buy it online, which seemed like a big hassle.  Fortunately, I remembered  that my favorite produce market carries lots of Middle Eastern products and would probably have something. And so they did, a whole shelf of pomegranate juices, syrups and molasses made by Sadaf as well as other manufacturers. With my purchase of the Sadaf pomegranate concentrate, I was back in business, slaw-wise.

You can’t surf around looking up information on pomegranates without learning that the fruit has a cult following of sorts because it has so many health benefits. I hate the term Superfood not only because it sounds ridiculous, but also because as Michael Pollan points out numerous times in his writings, we should be choosing a range of foods and not pinning unreasonable hopes to one particular ingredient or enzyme as if it is the Holy Grail of nutrition.  (The Super Food website defines the term through its sub title: Foods Guaranteed to Change your Life! How’s that for setting the bar rather high?) That being said, The S word is bandied about a lot where pomegranates are concerned. Still holding the status of a novelty food in North America, its popularity as a flavor continues to increase, adding its appealing alternative-to-citrus tartness in everything from cocktails to main dishes and desserts. Pomegranates are an old world fruit, however, and have been cultivated and present for thousands of years in the Middle East and China, where they have been enjoyed and revered as a symbol of life, luck and fertility. We in the U.S. have been slow to incorporating them into our culture because they weren’t grown commercially in the American West until the end of the 20th century. POM Wonderful and Sadaf provide pomegranate based products from fruit harvested in California’s San Joaquin valley.

Pomegranates get the Superfood nomenclature because it is turning the heads of a lot of lab scientists, as studies have shown that it is a powerful antioxidant, providing 3x as many antioxidants as green tea and red wine. Consumed regularly, pomegranates have been credited with mitigating the onset of osteoarthritis, lowering ADL/the bad cholesterol, and reducing cancer risk – particularly prostate cancer. (I know, it’s pretty impressive.) For more about the panoply of pomegranate-y health benefits, check out this BBC article, Pomegranates: the fruity panacea.

The Sadaf website has quite a nice collection of recipes and since I tasted this dish recently at a great little Mediterranean grill on Clement Street, Layaly, I thought I’d include Sadaf’s recipe for it here.

Chicken Pomegranite
Ingredients (Servings 2):
• 6-8 pieces of skinless chicken
• 4Tsp. Sadaf grapeseed oil
• 1 1/2Tsp. minced garlic
• 1 1/2Cup white wine
• 1/2Cup Sadaf Pomegranate Paste
• Kosher salt to taste
• 1Cup. white flour (approximately)
Salt the chicken pieces, then, very lightly dust with flour. In a skillet, heat the oil on medium to high heat. Sear the chicken until golden on both sides. Add the garlic to the skillet, stir for about one minute until golden, making sure not to burn it, then, add white wine and stir for 1-2 minutes. Add Sadaf Pomegranate Paste, and simmer for 15-20 minutes until done.

Also, I’m going to shamelessly plug my broccoli slaw one more time because it has become such a staple in our household and its an easy veggie to put together and have waiting to put on the dinner table on short notice. Before I did my research for this post, I just loved the slaw because it was a healthy side dish that tasted so good, was a good source of fiber and veggies and had zero sodium. I didn’t even know that I had the powerful punch of the pomegranate’s wonderful side effects going for it too.

Our (No Salt) House Salad Dressing

  • ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar (available at Trader Joe’s)
  • ½ cup olive oil (scant)
  • 1/3 tsp each garlic and onion powder
  • ½ tsp sweet paprika
  • 1-1/2 tsps. Pomegranite concentrate (Knudsen brand is the only one I know, there are probably others.)

Mix all ingredients together by shaking in a jar or storage container. It keeps well in the refrigerator and is very tasty on broccoli slaw or baby greens. For broccoli slaw, which you can buy in bags at most grocery stores, I add slivered almonds, craisins, about 1/3 cup of the above dressing and let marinate for a few hours before serving.

So that’s my little survey course on pomegranates. While the fruit itself is fun, and opening it properly is a skill in itself (there are myriad videos on the web on how-to) I recommend keeping a bottle of the concentrate in your fridge so it will be on hand when you are ready to experiment.
Happy First Day of Autumn!