Pomegranates

One of my earliest memories is that of using money my grandmother had given me to buy candy to buy a pomegranate instead. Oh, I loved them. I loved the fact that we kids had to dress up special in our worst clothes in order to eat them. We had to eat them outside, too (it’s still pretty warm in November in Los Angeles where we lived when I was a kid), and spit the seeds out into the shrubbery. Messy, juicy, sweet food that involves sanctioned spitting? We were in heaven.

pomegranate-tree.jpgNow we have our own pomegranate tree and we get to hang out in pom heaven come every November. (No more seed spitting, we grown-ups eat them whole.) Here’s the thing to know about pomegranates (other than the juice stains) – just because the fruit is red doesn’t mean that the seeds inside are ripe. We don’t pick our pomegranates until they begin to burst at the seams. This usually happens a few days after a rain. The seeds absorb the moisture and the skin cannot contain them anymore. Once the skin has cracked to reveal the seeds the pomegranates must be picked immediately, and used up quickly, or they will get moldy.

The best way to get to the seeds is to carefully cut out the crown. Score the pomegranate with a sharp knife from crown to stem end in several (5 to 8) lines, following the soft ridges of the side of the pomegranate if you can see them. Then place your thumbs in the hole left by the crown and pull the pomegranate apart. Tear away the connecting membranes and remove the seeds over a large bowl. You can do this over a bowl half filled with water if you want. The seeds will sink to the bottom and the membrane will float on the top. Skim off the membrane and strain the seeds of water. To juice them, put the seeds in a blender and pulse a few times, just enough to break up all the seeds. Let the mixture sit for a minute for the hard seed bits to settle and pour through a strainer. Add sugar to taste. (See step-by-step photos in How to Cut and De-Seed a Pomegranate.)

Here are a few pomegranate recipes you’ll find here on Simply Recipes:

Here are some terrific food blogs with recipes, tips, and discussions regarding pomegranates:

14 Comments

  1. Alanna

    “Santa” always left pomegranates in the toes of our stockings. I learned later that my Mum had to special-order them from the one little grocery in our tiny town. Such a treat! AK

  2. shuna fish lydon

    As much as I love them myself I cannot believe that you bought a pomegranate when you had money for candy!

    I like the trick and have used it myself but I prefer to pick out the white bits so that I can savor all the juice…

    thanks for the mention!

  3. denise

    Does anyone know where I can buy a pomegranate tree to plant in our backyard? I live in So Cal where you think it would be easy to find. We have been looking everywhere!

  4. bna

    My mom had the same rule — pomegranates were eaten in the side yard only. And I seem to remember we had to put on old t-shirts first.

    So if you’re eating the seeds one by one, is it okay to swallow the hard seed bit? I’ve always been a bit afraid.

  5. Roland

    My grandmother loves poms and I pick them up for her from time to time. Although, I don’t know exactly what to look for in buying poms at the store.

  6. Elise

    Hi Alanna – what a nice Santa-mom. Your stocking must have been huge….

    Hi Shuna Fish – there is something irresistibly compelling about a pomegranate. Given its role in mythology, there must be something deeply Jungian about them in our collective consciousness.

    Hi Denise – No idea on that one. Good luck!

    Hi BNA – eat em all up. The tiny hard seed bits are crunchy and good roughage.

    Hi Roland – The seeds should be a deep red color, like blood. If not, they’re not as ripe as they could be. If you find one that looks like the skin is breaking apart, that’s a good sign. If the skin has broken apart to reveal dark seeds without any mold, that’s the best.

  7. Travis

    I’m from South Dakota, and up here not too many people even know what a pomegranate is. Myself, though, I usually eat anywhere from 4 to 7 of them at a time, I love them so much! I do this at least 3 times a week as long as I can get them from the supermarket. And since not too many people buy them, they are always in stock (for anywhere from $1.50 to $3.50 apiece). I’ve been eating them in this manner every season for years.
    After all these years, I think that I’ve stumbled on to something. It may be my imagination, but it seems that the larger the diameter of the crown is, the bigger the the size of the seeds. Can anyone confirm this?
    One more little story. Once, when cutting out the crown, a spider fell out of it. It was alive, and it scared the heck out of me. I killed it in self-defense. It surely had been in the fruit since leaving California, because we certainly don’t have any spiders that looked like the one I killed. It was brown with an orange diamond on its back. Strange, huh? Anyway, I ALWAYS look into the crown before cutting, ever since that day about 10 years ago!

  8. skylinemt

    Seed pomegranites over a bowl of water? In my experience, it’s easier to de-seed them UNDER water — you can flail more freely with no risk of seeds launching in all directions.

  9. Emily

    Please help! My pomegranate tree just began bearing fruit last year, and it only got two poms. I wasn’t sure when to pick them, though, and they actually got dessicated on the tree. I thought I was waiting for them to ripen, and then one day, I realized they were all dried up and almost hollow inside. Very depressing! We have about a dozen poms on our tree right now, and I really don’t want that to happen again. I’ve been watering a little extra, but how else can I prevent my fruit from going bad? Do they always just split open one day as you’ve mentioned above?

    Hi Emily, I would consult with a nursery in your area regarding your tree and what to expect. There are different varieties of pomegranates and depending on the climate, might act differently. Some never turn red, but stay a pale pink. Some are even light pink on the inside. Ours are ruby red, outside and in. Where we are in Sacramento, California, the pomegranates become ripe in November. ~Elise

  10. leticia

    Hi Elise! In your most recent reply, you stated that you live in Sacramento, California. I live about forty minutes away, in Woodland and was wondering if I should also wait until November to pick pomegranates? My neighbor has a tree that hangs over our backyard fence, and I have been eagerly waiting to make pomegranate lemonade! :) They are a bit smaller than the size of a fist, and light grass-green, with dark red spots everywhere. Thanks for your help! Best wishes and good karma, Leticia.

    Hi Leticia, usually the pomegranates don’t become ripe around here until November. Sometimes they ripen early though, towards the end of October. After a good rain (which we get a lot of in the fall) if the poms are ripe, they will start to have cracks in their skin a day or two later. I think it’s the tree taking up all the water from the ground and pulling them into the pomegranate seeds. Once the poms actually crack open a bit, you need to pick them right away. Note, we don’t pick all of ours at once. They will stay happily ripe on the tree well into December, and usually the longer they stay on the tree, the sweeter they will be. Depending on the variety, the seeds should be ruby red and sweet. If they aren’t at all sweet, then they aren’t ripe. ~Elise

  11. Jenna

    Okay, so I deseeded and juiced a bunch of poms on Sunday to make jelly, but ran out of time… I’ve had the juice in a sealed glass container in the fridge since then, it’s now Tuesday and I plan on making the jelly tonight. Is there any danger that you know of in keeping the juice for this long? Thanks!

    No problem. As long as the juice is still drinkable, you’re good. ~Elise

  12. latisha

    wow. you’ve done it again. topped my google search.

    we recently bought a flat of poms too (lemon cukes were my other purchase) from the same farmer here in AZ.

    love all these ideas. thank you!

  13. Annette

    Our first pom bush was planted in 1996…and only gave us 4 the first year. Each year since, it has multiplied by 3. Some years have been somewhat scant, because windstorms blew off the blossoms, but the poms that held on were much bigger in those years. I have 4 pomegranate bushes trees, now. Two of the Wonderful variety and two of the Sweet variety. We harvest anywhere from 30-400 pomegranates a year, depending on when the blossoms come and the winds blow. I’ve learned many things about pomegranates. The best way to know when they are ripe is that they just start to split the outer skin (not necessarily all the way through.) This year was cooler much longer in the San Joaquin Valley (Tracy CA), so our crop was fairly late this year. I usually pick them from Halloween to Veteran’s Day…and then work on them till Thanksgiving. I’ve gathered up lots of recipes for jelly, pom ginger muffins, syrup and even pomegranate curd, over the years. I do have “pom clothes” black shirts/stained pants. To process them, we cut off the ends and score the outer skin. Soak them in a basin of water and break them apart under water, after about 10 minutes. This year, I put up a vinyl tablecloth underneath and behind the cutting board and heavy duty citrus press juicer I use. I also had dishwashing gloves that I used just for working on the pomegranates – so my hands wouldn’t get stained. This year, we have about 15 qts of juice from 350 poms. I freeze the juice in 3.5 cup rations…so it’s enough to make a batch of jelly – or enough to use in recipes for other things. You can also boil it down…and use it in marinade.

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