It is known as granada in Spanish speaking countries, pomme-grenade in France, and melograno in Italy. It is native to Persia and the Himalayas, but it is cultivated in various regions of North America, Europe, Asia, the Middle and Near East, and the Mediterranean. It is valued for its antioxidants, fiber, vitamin C, ruby red skin, and its sweet and tart seeds bursting with juice, and it is so versatile that it makes excellent sorbets and cocktails, but can also be used in savory applications like salad, meat, and fish dishes.
Pomegranates are utilized around the world to complement other flavors by providing just a hint of sweet and sour, but in Persian cuisine they are one of the main ingredients. For example, Khoresht fasenjan is the name of a Persian stew whose main ingredients are pomegranate juice, pomegranate paste, walnuts, chicken, onions and sugar, yet the value of pomegranates goes beyond their culinary uses. They hold a rich symbolism in Persian culture; “In Persian weddings a bowl of pomegranates is placed on the ceremonial cloth to symbolize a joyous future.”(http://pomegranates.org/index.php?c=5)
A while back I tried making khoresht fansejan for dinner one night, but it was too sweet for my taste and not a great hit with the family. Instead I made an arugula, avocado, red onion, pomegranate, and walnut salad tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette; chicken coconut curry with basmati rice sprinkled with pomegranates and cilantro; and homemade hummus topped with pomegranate seeds. Those were more successful on the home-front, but there is only one dish that I make that demands the presence of pomegranate, and that’s chiles en nogada. (Chiles en nogada is a Mexican dish that consists of poblano peppers filled with a sweet and savory pork stuffing and served in a walnut sauce topped with pomegranates. If you’re still not sure what to pair pomegranates with, try them with braised lamb and couscous or roasted pork and aromatic rice and nuts.
To prepare pomegranates, first cut the fruit in half vertically, then with the cut side up make 3 equally spaced cuts about 1 inch deep and fan out the pieces slightly without pulling them apart. Place the fruit in a small plastic bag. Holding the pomegranate in the bag, cut side down on your palm, hit the top of the fruit with a large spoon until all the arils (seeds) fall out.
Pomegranates can be stored at room temperature for up to 5 days at room temperature and several weeks in the refrigerator. Once the arils have been removed they can also be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
They are in season from late summer to early winter, and in Orange County you can find them at your local farmer’s market, but they should also be readily available at grocery stores.