A pomegranates is a fruit that not only epitomizes the changing seasons but also the changing business of fresh produce. Thought to be one of the oldest cultivated fruits, this Middle Eastern shrub is now grown all over the world, with a domestic season that starts in early September and can extend to February, weather permitting. One interesting thing about pomegranate production today is while cultivated acreage has increased steadily in the past few years, the supply for the fresh market during the domestic season is tighter than ever, mainly due to the enormous popularity of pomegranate juice blends and the fact that growers can often make as much selling fruit for juicing as they can fresh (with a lot less post-harvest hassles). But despite the increased competition between the fresh and juicing markets, we see pomegranates reach their seasonal peak in quality and availability in October and November.
Pomegranates require an investment in time to enjoy. Unlike a grape or an apple that you can dig into right away, it can be a little complicated to separate pomegranate seeds from the skin and white, papery membrane inside. The best way I know is to submerge a colander in water in your sink, then cut you pomegranate into quarters and separate the seeds from the skin and white material. This method is nice because the seeds will drop to the bottom while the white membrane floats to the surface of the water; allowing you to skim away the unwanted parts prior to removing the colander. Both the seeds and flesh are edible (the seeds in fact are very high in fiber) but you can separate the juice from the seeds by pushing them through a fine-mesh strainer.
Pomegranates add a dynamic flavor, color, and texture element to many dishes. I use them in salads, the juice in dressings and sauces, and as a seasoning over lots of dishes (particularly spicy ones). The unique flavor, high moisture content, and crunch of the seeds are hard to miss. One of my favorite combinations is pomegranates, toasted pistachios, and cow’s milk feta, served over fresh pears (my favorite is a ripe Comice — also at its peak now). Try some today!
— James Parker