December 1, 2007

By johnmac

The pomegranate is an ancient fruit originating from Persia.  Its name is derived from the Latin words pomum (apple) and granatus (seeds).  Indeed the pomegranate is an apple of many seeds – and many legends!  It is mentioned frequently in the Bible, Greek mythology and other ancient writings, often described as “Life Blood”.  It was considered a sign of fertility due to its hundreds of seeds.  Pomegranates are eaten as part of Jewish tradition during Rosh Hashanah, as a reminder to do good deeds.  Jewish tradition says that it contains 613 seeds, the same number of laws individuals of Jewish faith are commanded to obey.  In Muslim tradition, the prophet Muhammad is told his followers to “Eat the pomegranate, for it purges the system of envy and hatred.”

Pomegranate season is typically from late October through to January.  There are many varieties of pomegranate.  The one found in most North American grocery stores is between the size of an orange and a grapefruit.  It has thick skin ranging in colour from pink to reddish.  The skin contains clusters of small kernels.  Each kernel is made up of a tiny seed that is surrounded by a delicious, firm, juicy, crimson-coloured pulp.

Pomegranates are a good source of vitamin C, potassium and fibre.   Health benefits relating to the pomegranate can be attributed to the fact that it is rich in polyphenols.  These substances are strong antioxidants that may reduce the risk of cardiovascular related diseases as well as cancer.  In fact, several clinical trials have been approved to determine whether or not the consumption of pomegranate juice has any effect on atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries due to plaque build up), prostate cancer or prostatic hyperplasia.
(Source: http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/results?term=pomegranate).

Pomegranate juice has also been touted as an excellent tonic for the urinary bladder and kidneys.  It also has a mild laxative effect.  According to Spanish folklore, pomegranate juice is beneficial in relieving stomach upset, belching and flatulence. 

Consuming the kernels of the pomegranate is also a delicious way to reap the benefits this fruit has to offer – including its fibre content – something you will not get from drinking the juice. 

If you’ve never bought a fresh pomegranate before, here are some tips on how to get at the tasty kernels!  The juice from the kernels stains, so care must be taken when separating them from the skin. Here is a relatively easy, mess-reducing way to collect the kernels.


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