Pomegranates are one of the most ancient fruits and can be traced back to Persia. The word itself is derived from medieval Latin, meaning “apple with many seeds.” It seems fitting, considering their hard, leathery apple-like exterior containing clusters of plump, scarlet-red seeds tucked into a pithy, white membrane. The membrane itself is bitterly inedible, but the treasures are the plump arils, with their well-balanced, sweet tartness and their juicy yet crunchy texture.
Pomegranates are easy to grow, drought tolerant, and among the healthiest fruits on earth. Laura Ramirez, of Redlands-based farm JJ’s Lone Daughter Ranch, probably has the largest selection of winter fruits at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, from her delectable persimmons to her three varieties of pomegranates: red, white and pink. Her pomegranates can range from the size of a baseball to a baby’s head. The best choices are the heavy, cracked ones, which are so swollen with juicy arils that the pomegranates are literally bursting at the seams.
Pomegranate season begins in the fall and lasts until the heavy winter rains begin. Laura thwarts the rain issue by picking her last pomegranates around the end of January, so you’d better stock up this month. Once the rain water begins seeping in through the pomegranate crowns, the interior gets soaked, deteriorating the arils.
Seeding pomegranates can be a messy endeavor, but Union Chef Bruce Kalman kindly shared a simple pomegranate seeding method. He first cuts them in half and squeezes the halves to loosen up the seeds. Then, over a bowl, he taps the tops with a spoon until the arils, juice and essential oils spill right out. His team at Union have created a bright, freshly squeezed Pomegranate-Orange Italian Soda for their seasonal menu that he shares the recipe for on the Good Food blog.