Believed to have originated in Persia (today’s Iran), pomegranates grow on small, shrubby
trees in hot, dry regions. Botanically known as Punica granatum, or “apple with many seeds,” each fruit contains hundreds of arils (the proper term for the juicy flesh that encases the actual seeds). Pomegranates have long been a kitchen staple in India, Iran, and Turkey; it’s only in recent years that they’ve become popular in the United States for their flavor and antioxidant powers.
Varieties range in color from brick red to yellow and in size from 3 to 5 inches in diameter. The U.S. market is dominated by the variety Wonderful. Primarily grown in California and available October through January, Wonderfuls are about the size of a grapefruit and have a purple-red rind.
Equal parts tart and sweet, pomegranate seeds can be sprinkled over yogurt or oatmeal,
tossed into salads, added to pancake or muffin batter, muddled and stirred into lemonade orsparkling wine, or mixed into salsas, relishes, or chutneys.
Pomegranate juice is equally versatile: Try it in citrusy vinaigrettes, as a poaching liquid for pears, or in glazes or pan sauces for chicken, duck, or pork. Use it to make sorbet or granitas. Boil it down with sugar until syrupy and add to cocktails, such as planter’s punch.
Pomegranate pairs well with citrus, warming spices, nuts, rich meats such as lamb, duck, and pork, and cheeses like feta, goat, and Brie—there are as many possibilities as there are seeds in a pomegranate.
One medium pomegranate weighs about 9 ounces and yields about 5 ounces of arils (3/4 cup) and 4 ounces (1/2 cup) of juice.
If a recipe only calls for pomegranate juice (as opposed to seeds), bottled juice is more widely available than fresh pomegranates.
Choose pomegranates that are heavy for their size with bright, fresh-looking skin that is free of blemishes, cracks, and splits.
If you try to just cut open the fruit and scoop out the seeds, you’ll stain your fingers and clothes. instead, begin by removing the pomegranate’s crown and lightly scoring its rind into quarters from end to end. soak the fruit in a bowl of cool water for five minutes; then break the still-submerged fruit into sections with your fingers and gently remove the seeds. Discard the bitter rind, pith, and bits of membrane (which will float to the top) and then drain the seeds in a sieve. Watch a video of this technique.
For juice, blend the seeds in a blender until liquefied, then strain. (Though juice sold in the supermarket produce section is good too.)
Whole pomegranates keep well at room temperature (away from sunlight) for several days, and for up to 3 months refrigerated in plastic bags. Arils can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. For longer storage, freeze them in single layers on trays and transfer them to airtight containers where they'll keep for 6 months in the freezer. Freshly squeezed pomegranate juice can be refrigerated for up to 3 days and frozen up to 6 months.