|The colour of pomegranates|
Not only is it a feast for the eyes, for the texture and taste, pomegranate is really good for you too. They contain substantial doses of vitamin A, C, E, iron, and other antioxidants plus of course dietary fibre. A great addition to your five-a-day. They can be used in salads and eastern cookery and pomegranate molasses is a wonderful addition to the store cupboard particularly for Persian dishes.
Pomegranate is thought to be one of the earliest cultivated fruits, originating from Iran and spreading via the silk road to be cultivated across the Mediterranean and China and subsequently of course in Florida and California. It was valued by the Ancient Egyptians, the Ancient Greeks (who linked the fruit with Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, and with the story of Persephone), as well as Zoroastrians, Jews, Buddhists, and Christians. It is said that Catherine of Aragon may have brought the fruit to Britain and King Henry VIII may have planted the first pomegranate tree in England.
In childhood I cannot remember having pomegranate very often and we were taught to pick at each seed one at a time with a needle. I can only imagine this was some kind of awful Victorian restraint still bearing down on such a lush fruit! Thankfully pomegranates are more plentiful and the sweet ‘wonderful’ large versions are in supermarkets – Lidl has them for a good price in season. Of course they take a little time to break open (cut across the belly, turn upside down over a bowl, gently bash leathery skin with a spoon so the seeds fall into bowl) but they are worth taking the time for. If this does not work gently break free the remaining seeds with your hands, picking away the inedible papery membrane. Sometimes your hands are covered in dark juice by the end but that only makes the enjoyment of the fruit more sensual and truly a treat to be savoured. It’s probably some kind of spa treatment for your hands! Often I will do this while our main course is bubbling away so that pomegranate will be ready to refresh us as desert, and it is a way to enjoy the warm evening light that floods into our kitchen and flows like syrup over the ruby seeds. It is also a fruit to seek out when in season and particularly in mid-winter, to remind you of the bounty that the sun stores up and which can still be enjoyed even when it is dark at supper time and we are almost at our furthest point away from the sun.
So as we depart solstice and approach high summer in the northern hemisphere I pay homage to you, lovely pomegranate, to your utter voluptuous goodness and juiciness, our European cranberry, our biblical treat to break open and share with others, long may you continue to grace our table! (Despite the cold rainy summer and uncertain political climate of Brexit).