Glossary of Foods: Pomegranate

Pomegranates are like little fruit treasure boxes of health and nutrition! You may already be familiar with pomegranate juice and other pomegranate flavored foods. Pomegranates are lauded as a superfood containing numerous health benefits in the juice and seeds. This trend in popularity seems recent, as if the health benefits of pomegranates were just discovered. However, they are among the oldest known fruits, originating near ancient Mesopotamia. They're now grown and cultivated in the drier climates of California and Arizona, the Mediterranean region, Southern Asia, and the Middle East.

fresh pomegranate seeds

The pomegranate fruit is grown on a tree growing to approximately 16-26 feet tall. The fruit itself is a pinkish-red orb about the size of an orange or small grapefruit. The exterior of the pomegranate is inedible, but inside embedded in a white, spongy membrane are individual seeds covered in a small red droplet-like sacs. There is a small seed inside each pulp sac. Pomegranate juice is extracted from the juicy pulp around each seed. The seed may be eaten with the pulp, or you can eat the pulp around the seed and spit out the seed itself. Pomegranates have a tart, sweet flavor, similar to that of berries. The number of seeds inside a pomegranate may vary from 200 to 1400.

pomegranate tree

Pomegranates are usually in season in the United States beginning in October through November. When shopping for pomegranates, large grocery stores and farmers markets may carry the fresh fruits. Look for plump, rounded pomegranates that are heavy for their size. The skin of pomegranates appears shriveled and dry as it gets older, so stay away from those. Pomegranates may also bruise easily in transit. You may also find pomegranates in juice form or just the pulp sacs in cups already harvested from the fruit. Extracting seeds from a pomegranate can be a tricky business. It's best to view a tutorial before opening one to try!

The health benefits of this unique fruit are incredible! Pomegranates have one of the highest antioxidant concentrations of any fruit, making it a potent immune system booster and giving it anti-cancer effects, as well. Regular consumption of pomegranate juice is said to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and other cardiac risk factors. They are nutrient-dense fruits with a whole alphabet of vitamins and minerals in those tiny little seeds, especially vitamins C and K! Pomegranates are also celebrated for their anti-aging compounds!

Pomegranates and their juice can be eaten many different ways! Many people enjoy fresh pomegranate seeds. Those can be eaten right out of the fruit or used to top off a salad for a hint of tartness and sweetness. You may also find pomegranate juice sweetened or unsweetened at the grocery store. Some varieties also contain other fruit flavors. Beware of sugar content in these sweetened juice varieties! Pomegranate juice is delicious on its own, mixed with green tea, or blended  into smoothies. Pomegranate seeds may also be blended into smoothies!

While they may look strange, pomegranates are an exceptionally healthy fruit with health benefits too good to miss!