It took a few centuries, but it looks like the pomegranate has finally gone mainstream.
There are few foods that can match the pomegranate for cultural power and mystique. Pomegranates inspired poets from Homer to Shakespeare. Egyptians buried pomegranates with their dead to ensure safe passage to the afterlife. Both Buddha and the Prophet Muhammad ascribed sacred powers to the fruit, and many scholars believe it was not an apple but a pomegranate that Eve was offered in the Garden of Eden.
It’s taken a while, but the pomegranate has definitely caught on. Today you’ll find it blended into Starbucks Frappucinos, flavoring Jelly Belly jelly beans, Tootsie Pops, and 7UP. In 2009 we purchased nearly $100 million worth of Pom Wonderful’s distinctive, pinched-waisted bottles of pomegranate juice drinks. Just one pomegranate-based product was introduced in 2003; this year we’re on track to see 450 new pomegranate items in the marketplace.
Recently pomegranates were dubbed a superfruit with a variety of health benefits attributed to its plentiful and powerful antioxidents.
Pomegranates can help prevent the onset of atherosclerosis, a hardening of the arteries that leads to heart disease and stroke. Hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause can be alleviated by the phytoestrogen found in pomegranate seeds. A glass of pomegranate juice a day has been found to slow the spread of prostate cancer, and some early studies are hinting at Viagra-like benefits as wel
But health claims alone don’t explain the popularity. Pomegranates are a fall and winter-time fruit, available when fresh fruits are scarce. Their puckery sweet-tart flavor is exotic yet accessible and versatile. A tough, leathery skin protects the ruby red, juicy seed sacs during shipping, and allows the fruit to be stored for weeks, even months before consuming.
To learn how to get past that tough skin and what to do with the seeds once you get there, you can start with this lesson in how to eat a pomegranate. Then find dozens of recipes on the Pomegranate Council’s website.