It is pomegranate season.
Which is a dangerous time for me. I have very little self-control when it comes to the kind sweet, tangy, fruit based deliciousness pomegranates promise.
Which is a meandering introduction towards the revelation that I have just eaten two whole, very large pomegranates. The first one was good. Bright scarlet berries and a sweet flavour. But the second one. Oh lord. This was God’s own pomegranate. Dark crimson berries so juicy that as soon as I cut it open it seemed to be bleeding blood. And tangy, like a cherry crossed with a lime.
One of the benefits of living in a diverse city like Leicester is that the residents know where to import the best fruit from. Wherever the current batch are imported from (I would guess Israel) the consequence is I’ve spent many evenings this week gorged out of my mind on fruit.
As a good friend of mie says, a pomegranate is more than just a fruit. It’s an experience.
But before you can get to that experience, you have find a way in. And as another friend says, the pomegranate is an intimidating fruit.
The best pomegranates are dark skinned, almost scaly, and irregularly shaped. Avoid pale, shiny round pomegranates. They will be artificially grown in big greenhouses. The berries will be pale and tasteless so you just end chewing seed. And it will be mostly pith anyway (more on the pith later). Not good. It’s this kind of poor pomegranate experience, often from a supermarket bought pomegranate, that puts many people off. Size wise, a pomegranate should be around the size of an orange of a big apple. Smaller ones can be tasty, but frustrating (I would have to eat three small pomegranates at least) bigger ones again risk being artificial and tasteless.
Assuming you can source a few good pomegranates, you are going to need a nice bowl and a good sharp knife. I use a paring knife with a short, fat blade. I’ve used a professional grade 12″ chopping knife in the past out of desperation, but as you will see, control is an issue. Oh, and somewhere comfortable to sit. And maybe some good music.
Carefully dig the tip of the knife under the evil looking stem on top of the pomegranate, then cut around in a circle. The aim is to cleanly detach this and dispose of it. It serves no further purpose.
Now, you’re going to make a slicing incision from near the top of the pomegrante, down to around two thirds of the way to the base. YOU ONLY NEED TO SLICE THROUGH THE SKIN, NOT INTO THE FRUIT ITSELF. Now, make another identical incision about one sixth of the way around the circumference of the pomegranate. Make a third small incision to join the top of the two existing one. Imagine this as demarcating a slice of cake.
With the slice ready, you use the edge of the blade to gently leaver it out of the body of the fruit. You should then get a whole chunk of berries attached to the rind.
In a moment you’re going to be able to eat some berries. But first a note on pith.
Pith is not, contrary to what my mother said the first time she gave me one of these fruit, lethally poisonous. You do not need to remove every single tiny bit of pith from every single damn berry, as I did, thereby extending the eating time to three or four hours. Pith is rather bitter and chewy however, so you do want to avoid it mostly. The best way to do this is to us your fingers to pick a cluster of berries off the slice and then eat them.
Go for it.
Once you’ve finished a slice, you will want another one. Repeat the incision and levering / lifiting process until you’ve eaten the berries from all six slices. Then you can dig in to the main body, unless you’ve been eating those bits as you go, which is actually how I usually do it.
The base of the pomegranate is rather wondrous. Assuming you’ve been methodical you will basically have a seventh, circular slice. Now, of you remove most of the pith, and then press the bottom upwards, the whole thing radiates out like some kind of pomegranate flower. Don’t admire it too long, it’s meant for eating.
Now at this point I usually get a second pomegranate and continue eating. If that was the second pomegranate, I debate having a third, assuming there are any left and reminding myself I will DEFINITELY feel sick afterwards. Which is why I’ve been writing this post, as I consider that question. And now I have made up my mind.