Whenever I want to make a dish look really spectacular, I scatter some glistening ruby red antioxidant-rich pomegranate seeds over it to bring a hint of magic and brighten up even the dullest looking dish.
The word ‘Pomegranate’ comes from the Latin ‘pomum granatum’ which means ‘apple of many seeds.’ Pomegranate is an autumn/winter fruit, so it is in season in the Northern Hemisphere from roughly September to February and in the Southern Hemisphere from about March to June. In the Indian sub-continent, pomegranates grow all year round.
Although some supermarkets sell pomegranate seeds (also called ‘arils’) already removed from the fruit, this is not ideal. While this might seem handy, it can be expensive and the seeds are not always as fresh as you would hope. It is often less expensive and fresher to buy a whole pomegranate and de-seed it yourself at home. And it is surprisingly very easy if you know what to do.
There are two principle aims when de-seeding a pomegranate.
1) Keep as many seeds whole as possible
2) Avoid being splattered by red pomegranate juice (it stains, so wear an apron)
Here are a my step-by-step instructions (with pictures) of the neatest way to de-seed a pomegranate while keeping as many seeds intact as possible. Once you try it, you will never want to try another method and you will never be intimidated by de-seeding a whole pomegranate again.
HOW TO CUT AND DE-SEED A POMEGRANATE
1) You will need:
– a medium-sized bowl
– a small sharp knife
– a chopping board (or plate)
– a pomegranate (I recommend wearing an apron to avoid pomegranate juice stains on your clothes).
Wash the skin of your pomegranate under some running water in the sink and then dry it.
2) Take a look at your pomegranate. At the top, you will see a small crown-like structure called a ‘calyx’. Inside the calyx is the ‘stamen cluster’ which is inedible, so the first thing you need to do is to remove it. Take your chopping board (or plate), and hold your pomegranate on its side on the board (or plate). With your small sharp knife, cut the top off the pomegranate (just under where the crown-like calyx is). Try and stay close to the base of the calyx as possible so that you don’t cut into any pomegranate seeds (also called ‘arils’).
3) Once you remove the calyx, you may see that a small circular part beneath the calyx is left surrounded by some whitish pith (the pith is called the ‘albedo’). Remove this circular part by holding your knife slightly downwards at an angle into the surrounding pith and cut out a small cone-shaped piece. Try not to cut too deeply otherwise you will cut into the seeds. Discard the crown-like calyx and the cone-shaped piece.
4) With your paring knife, score the skin of the pomegranate into quarters (or sixths if it is very large). Make sure you only cut through the skin and not the pomegranate seeds as you want to keep the seeds whole.
5) Gently pull the pomegranate apart by putting your two thumbs into the top of the pomegranate (where the calyx used to be) and holding the body of the pomegranate in your fingertips. Pull your thumbs apart gently and the pomegranate should separate easily with a slight cracking sound. Separate the pomegranate into quarters (or sixths, depending on how many segments you scored the skin into).
6) Fill a medium-sized bowl about halfway with cool clean water (the water will help you avoid getting squirted by red pomegranate juice.) Submerge a segment of pomegranate into the water. Keeping the fruit under the water, start separating the seeds from the skin, pith and membrane (all of which are inedible). Most of the pomegranate seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl while most of the pith and membrane will float to the top of the water in the bowl. Do the same with all the segments of the pomegranate. Remove any floating pith or membrane using a tea strainer, spoon, or your hands.
7) Drain the seeds in a colander and then pour them into a dry bowl or plate. The pomegranate seeds are now ready to use. Depending on how fresh the pomegranate is, the seeds can be kept covered in the refrigerator for upto 3-5 days.