A feast for eyes, palate too

A pomegranate shrub or a tree, as the case may be, I think is one of the most showy edible landscaping additions in a garden: the bright orange-red blooms that plants bear are spectacular, the foliage turns a pretty yellow in fall, and the mature fruit, aside from the exotic taste and health benefits, is so perfectly shaped that it can easily be mistaken for being not real.

As pomegranates make their appearance on the grocer’s shelves for a short time only, usually from September until February, one needs to rather than judging from the bottled juice sold year around, see and sample a fresh fruit when they are available. Ask someone who has had the pleasure of consuming a pomegranate and be prepared to hear what an adventure it is to reach the edible part and how unique the taste is.

For those not familiar, pomegranates are round, deep red eye-catching fruits, flaunting a matching “crown” which while indeed attractive, appears to be a few sizes too small for the size of the body of the fruit. They are fairly large in size, some weighing as much as a pound. (Though sold generally by quantity and not by weight, once out of curiosity I did weigh a fruit I had purchased.)

Set in neat rows and separated by yellowish papery partitions, lie the edible seeds which are covered with brilliant red sweet-tart pulp; so as to enjoy the pulp, one has to chew the seeds as well since it is virtually impossible to spit each seed. Alternately, one can make a juice of the pulp-covered seeds and strain it through a sieve.

A deciduous shrub or a small tree, pomegranates are considered border-line hardy in our area; so, one can either grow a dwarf variety such as ‘nana’ as a houseplant or procure a cultivar which can survive our winter. Since I have always had my heart set on growing it outdoor, I was able to find a cultivar ‘Lubimi’ which is doing quite well at a sheltered location. Unfortunately, the squirrels outsmart us by getting the barely ripened fruits. By the way, before buying, do check the variety or cultivar since some are primarily ornamental and bear no fruit.

The fruits, in addition to being a delectable delight, are much sought-after for Williamsburg-style centerpieces, holiday wreaths and other decorations. And toiletry companies have also taken advantage  by incorporating the goodness of pomegranates in their products; for this reason, I like using the lip balm which contains pomegranate oil thus the distinct taste.       

A final note on enjoying a pomegranate: Upon asking a family member who is very apt in handling this seasonal fruit the secret of reaching the edible part, “patience” came the quick reply.

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