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Pomegranates in the Kitchen

Despite their reputation, pomegranates are not hard to prepare, and the seeds you retrieve are incredibly versatile in the kitchen.

By Ben Whitacre
November/December 2018

Pomegranates have long been dispersing their own fruit with little effort, because if left on the plant for long enough, the fruits split open and turn inside out. It only takes a few simple steps in your kitchen to mimic the natural way they release their seeds. You’ll need a sharp kitchen knife and a bowl in which to put the seeds.

Photo by Flickr/coniferconifer

First, cut off the crown and remnants of the stem to make the fruit easier to handle. Without cutting deep enough to puncture the seeds, use your sharp knife to score from the center of the rind — where the crown was — to the stem, and back around, so that you’ve cut in a circle all the way around the pomegranate. Twist gently from several angles until it begins to give. If it doesn’t give, score the same line a little deeper, but continue to avoid the seeds.

Pull the fruit into halves and turn each half inside-out. If the halves don’t readily give, lightly score the edges between the seed clusters about 1/8 inch deep to facilitate tearing. It may be necessary to break off a cluster, but the objective is to get as large a piece as possible turned inside-out. After the rind is inverted, pull off the papery tissue covering some of the seed clusters, almost like a wrapper.

Inverting the rind loosens the seeds and provides the easiest surface for handling and brushing them out. Try not to apply too much pressure or cut more than necessary.

After the seeds are removed, they can be kept in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to a week. They can also be frozen, though they’ll absorb freezer odor within a month. If the frozen seeds become unpalatable sooner than expected, they can still make quality juice as long as the skin is carefully strained out.

While the sweet-tart flavor of most varieties grown in America is excellent without other ingredients, the seeds are so versatile for cooking that they might as well be considered a condiment, as they were by Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II almost 3,000 years ago. Sprinkle a few seeds on top of a cake, in a bowl of granola cereal, on fish, or on a salad. Their bursting texture and tangy flavor make them a favorite for dips, such as guacamole and queso. And since the fleshy layer of the seeds absorbs liquid and aromas, they mingle well in uncooked dishes, such as fresh fruit tarts, or as a substitute for tapioca pearls in bubble tea. When dried, the seeds are known as the spice “anardana.”

Picture Perfect Pomegranate Deseeding

While this method requires more time and care than the inside-out method mentioned above, the result is a treasure trove overflowing with ruby-red rewards.

Photo by Ben Whitacre

Step 1: Score a wide circle around the crown of the pomegranate, just shallow enough not to cut the seeds.

Photo by Ben Whitacre

Step 2: Peel off the top, leaving the crown (or “calyx”) in place.

Photo by Ben Whitacre

Step 3: Score the margins between each of the seed clusters, stopping about halfway down the fruit.

Photo by Ben Whitacre

Step 4: Gently twist the pomegranate from various angles, until it begins to loosen and come apart.

Photo by Ben Whitacre

Step 5: Pull each whorl apart.

Photo by Ben Whitacre

Step 6: Remove the calyx and the white, fleshy albedo beneath it.

For more about pomegranates, see:

Benjamin Whitacre is an experienced gardener and writer who grows pomegranates in his Zone 7a garden in central Virginia.

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