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Pomegranates: Symbols of Good Health

by Berkeley Wellness

The pomegranate has appeared throughout history as a symbol of fertility, royalty, hope, and abundance. Celebrated in art, mythology, religious texts, and literature, pomegranates appear on floor mosaics in Pompeii, in Egyptian papyrii, and in the Old Testament under the name of rimmon. In fact, it is rumored that the pomegranate may be the fruit that led to Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden.

In Greek mythology, the pomegranate was a symbol of procreation and abundance, perhaps because the average pomegranate has about 800 seeds. And according to Greek mythology, the reason we have winter is because Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, goes into mourning once a year when her daughter Persephone returns to live in the underworld due to a life sentence imposed on her because she ate seven pomegranate seeds.

About the size of a large orange or apple, the pomegranate has a tough, dark red or brownish-red rind. Encased within a white, spongy, inedible membrane are the seeds. And surrounding the seeds is the pomegranate’s juicy, translucent scarlet-red flesh. Pomegranate seeds take time and care to get to, but it is well worth the effort.

Types of Pomegranate

In addition to whole pomegranates, pomegranate products include juices, molasses, and grenadine.

Pomegranates: nutrition

The sweet edible flesh around pomegranate seeds provides vitamin B6, vitamin C, and lots of potassium. Pomegranate juice also provides these nutrients.

Pomegranate juice is a concentrated source of phytochemicals and may have two to three times the antioxidant power of equal quantities of green tea or red wine. Two antioxidant phytochemicals found in pomegranates are catechins and anthocyanins (the pigments that lend pomegranates their crimson color). Ellagic acid, plentiful in pomegranates, is under review for its potential to fight off carcinogenic agents.

For a full listing of nutrients, see Pomegranates in the National Nutrient Database.

How to choose the best pomegranates

Domestic pomegranates are best from September through the beginning of January, with their peak in late October through November.

As the seeds represent about 52 percent of the weight of the whole fruit, pick up the fruit to feel its weight. If it feels light for its size, select a heavier one. The skin should appear shiny, taut and thin, without cracks or splits.

How to store pomegranates

Pomegranates are one of the more enduring fruits. Stored in a dark, cool place, whole pomegranates will stay edible for up to a month and in the refrigerator for up to two months.

How to Seed and Serve Pomegranates

A guide to the (warning: rather complicated) process of harvesting pomegranate seeds—plus five delicious ways to use them once you do.

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