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Prairie Fare: Pomegranate Seeds Add a Festive Touch to Holiday Menus

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist
Pomegranates are similar in their content of phytochemicals (natural plant chemicals) to blueberries and cranberries.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

The shiny, red spheres in the produce aisle attracted my attention. I walked closer to examine them. I knew they were pomegranates and had tasted them previously. However, I never had purchased one.

I picked up a couple of pomegranates and set the one with blemishes back in the bin. The fruit was heavy for its size, so I figured it was fairly high in juice. After I arrived home, I put the “pom” in the refrigerator.

My curious teenage daughter almost immediately spotted the pomegranate. Although the fruit would have maintained its quality for a couple of months in the refrigerator, we prepared the pomegranate within hours of purchase. Pomegranate seeds retain their quality for three months in your freezer.

“We tried pomegranate seeds in school. They look like red corn kernels, except they are transparent. They’re really juicy and kind of chewy,” she described to her younger sister, who stood nearby. My younger daughter cautiously approached the pomegranate.

“That looks like an apple or a red onion to me,” she announced. She wasn’t quite ready to try this new food.

Pomegranate can be translated from Latin to mean “an apple with many seeds.”

I knew that harvesting the juicy seeds would take a little effort. I carefully washed the fruit and proceeded to slice off the blossom end. Then I made cuts through the leathery flesh from the base to the blossom end and put the fruit in a bowl of cold water for several minutes.

Next, we broke apart the pomegranate and separated the seeds and transparent flesh from the white membrane. The bitter-flavored membrane floated in the water and we discarded it. The seeds sank to the bottom of the bowl.

I should have known better than to wear a white sweatshirt during the seeding process, especially with an energetic, pomegranate-seeding teenager standing nearby. I now have a sweatshirt with pink spots that will put our laundry stain remover to the test.

Finally, we poured the water and seed mixture through a colander. One pomegranate produced more than 1 1/2 cups of seeds.

“Mom, these seeds are bursting with flavor! What’s in a pomegranate, anyway?” my daughter asked as she dipped some pomegranate seeds into her bowl.

“They are praised for their natural antioxidants and they contain some vitamin C. Antioxidants are natural disease-fighting chemicals, by the way,” I replied.

Later, I looked up some additional information about pomegranates and saw a picture of a green shrub with shiny red pomegranates that looked like holiday ornaments. I was thinking that would look nice on my landscape, but they require a warmer climate than we have in North Dakota.

A native of Persia, pomegranates are grown in states with warmer climates, including California, Utah and Arizona. They are grown in Asian and Mediterranean countries and are available from September through December in many grocery stores.

Pomegranates are similar in their content of phytochemicals (natural plant chemicals) to blueberries and cranberries. Some studies have shown pomegranates as potentially beneficial in reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer.

A pomegranate about the size of an apple has just 100 calories, 26 grams of carbohydrate and 1 gram of fiber. Pomegranates are a good source of potassium.

Consider adding this festive, juicy fruit to your menu. Sprinkle some pomegranate seeds on a spinach salad, fruit salad, cold or hot cereal or yogurt. You also can juice them to make fruit beverages, jelly and wine. You can use the juice as a meat marinade.

Try this colorful, nutritious recipe adapted from one that appeared in the University of California-Berkeley Wellness Letter.

Pomegranate-Raisin-Almond Chicken Salad

Seeds from 2 pomegranates

1/2 c. golden raisins

1 pound cooked chicken (or turkey) breast meat, cut into 1-inch chunks

1/3 c. toasted sliced almonds

1 chopped apple (with skin)

1/2 c. chopped or thinly sliced celery

1 Tbsp. chopped Italian parsley (optional)

1/4 c. chopped green onion

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon curry powder (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Salad dressing:

1/3 c. olive oil (or canola oil)

3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

In a large mixing bowl, combine the pomegranate seeds, raisins, chicken (or turkey), almonds, apple, celery, parsley and green onion. Sprinkle with curry powder. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil and vinegar. Add the salad dressing to the chicken mixture and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes eight servings. Each serving has 270 calories, 13 grams (g) of fat, 20 g of protein, 19 g of carbohydrate, 3 g of fiber and 55 milligrams of sodium (without added salt).

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication – Nov. 23, 2011

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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