Fruit of the Week – Pomegranate

September 6, 2011 at 11:51 AM | Posted in diabetes, diabetes friendly, Food, fruits, low calorie, low carb | 8 Comments
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A pomegranate Punica granatum, is a fruit-bearing deciduous shrub or small tree growing between five and eight meters tall. The pomegranate is native to the Caucasus, the Himalayas in north Pakistan and Northern India.

It has been cultivated in the Caucasus since ancient times, and today, is widely cultivated throughout Iran, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iraq, Egypt, China, Burma, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, the drier parts of southeast Asia, the Mediterranean region of Southern Europe, and tropical Africa. Introduced into Latin America and California by Spanish settlers in 1769, pomegranate is now cultivated in parts of California and Arizona for juice production.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the fruit is typically in season from September to February. In the Southern Hemisphere, it is in season from March to May.

The pomegranate is a very ancient fruit, mentioned in the Homeric Hymns and the Book of Exodus. It has, in recent years, reached mainstream prominence in the commercial markets of North America and the Western Hemisphere.

The Punica granatum leaves are opposite or sub-opposite, glossy, narrow oblong, entire, 3–7 cm long and 2 cm broad. The flowers are bright red, 3 cm in diameter, with four to five petals (often more on cultivated plants). Some fruitless varieties are grown for the flowers alone. The edible fruit is a berry and is between a lemon and a grapefruit in size, 5–12 cm in diameter with a rounded hexagonal shape, and has thick reddish skin and around 600 seeds. Each seed has a surrounding water-laden pulp—the edible aril—ranging in color from white to deep red or purple. The seeds are embedded in a white, spongy, astringent pulp.

Punica granatum is grown as a fruit crop plant, and as ornamental trees and shrubs in parks and gardens. Mature specimens can develop sculptural twisted bark multi-trunks and a distinctive overall form. Pomegranates are drought-tolerant, and can be grown in dry areas with either a Mediterranean winter rainfall climate or in summer rainfall climates. In wetter areas, they can be prone to root decay from fungal diseases. They are tolerant of moderate frost, down to about −10°C (14°F).[citation needed] Insect pests of the pomegranate can include the pomegranate butterfly Virachola isocrates and the leaf-footed bug Leptoglossus zonatus. Pomegranate grows easily from seed, but is commonly propagated from 25–50 cm hardwood cuttings to avoid the genetic variation of seedlings. Air layering is also an option for propagation, but grafting fails.

Punica granatum nana is a dwarf variety of Punica granatum popularly planted as a ornamental plant in gardens and larger containers, and used as a bonsai specimen tree. It could well be a wild form with a distinct origin. The only other species in the genus Punica is the Socotran pomegranate (Punica protopunica) , which is endemic to the island of Socotra. It differs in having pink (not red) flowers and smaller, less sweet fruit.

After opening the pomegranate by scoring it with a knife and breaking it open, the arils (seed casings) are separated from the peel and internal white pulp membranes. Separating the red arils is easier in a bowl of water, because the arils sink and the inedible pulp floats. Freezing the entire fruit also makes it easier to separate. Another very effective way of quickly harvesting the arils is to cut the pomegranate in half, score each half of the exterior rind four to six times, hold the pomegranate half over a bowl and smack the rind with a large spoon. The arils should eject from the pomegranate directly into the bowl, leaving only a dozen or more deeply embedded arils to remove.

The entire seed is consumed raw, though the watery, tasty aril is the desired part. The taste differs depending on the subspecies of pomegranate and its ripeness. The pomegranate juice can be very sweet or sour, but most fruits are moderate in taste, with sour notes from the acidic tannins contained in the aril juice. Pomegranate juice has long been a popular drink in Persian and Indian cuisine, and began to be widely distributed in the United States and Canada in 2002.

Grenadine syrup is thickened and sweetened pomegranate juice used in cocktail mixing. Before tomatoes (a new-world fruit) arrived in the Middle East, grenadine was widely used in many Iranian foods, and is still found in traditional recipes such as fesenjān, a thick sauce made from pomegranate juice and ground walnuts, usually spooned over duck or other poultry and rice, and in ash-e anar (pomegranate soup).

Wild pomegranate seeds are used as a spice known as anardana (from Persian: anar+dana, pomegranate+seed), most notably in Indian and Pakistani cuisine, but also as a substitute for pomegranate syrup in Persian cuisine. Dried whole arils can often be obtained in ethnic Indian subcontinent markets. These seeds are separated from the flesh, dried for 10–15 days and used as an acidic agent for chutney and curry preparation. Ground anardana is also used, which results in a deeper flavoring in dishes and prevents the seeds from getting stuck in teeth. Seeds of the wild pomegranate variety known as daru from the Himalayas are regarded as quality sources for this spice.

Dried pomegranate arils, found in some natural specialty food markets, still contain the seed and residual aril water, maintaining a natural sweet and tart flavor. Dried arils can be used in several culinary applications, such as trail mix, granola bars, or as a topping for salad, yogurt, or ice cream. Chocolate covered arils, also available in gourmet food stores like Trader Joes, may be added to desserts and baked items.

In the Caucasus, pomegranate is used mainly as juice. In Azerbaijan a sauce from pomegranate juice (narsharab) is usually served with fish or tika kabab. In Turkey, pomegranate sauce, (Turkish: nar ekşisi) is used as a salad dressing, to marinate meat, or simply to drink straight. Pomegranate seeds are also used in salads and sometimes as garnish for desserts such as güllaç. Pomegranate syrup or molasses is used in muhammara, a roasted red pepper, walnut, and garlic spread popular in Syria and Turkey.

In Greece, pomegranate (Greek: ρόδι, rodi) is used in many recipes, including kollivozoumi, a creamy broth made from boiled wheat, pomegranates and raisins, legume salad with wheat and pomegranate, traditional Middle Eastern lamb kebabs with pomegranate glaze, pomegranate eggplant relish, and avocado-pomegranate dip. Pomegranate is also made into a liqueur and popular fruit confectionery used as ice cream topping or mixed with yogurt or spread as jam on toast. In Cyprus as well as in Greece and among the Greek Orthodox Diaspora, ρόδι is used to make kolliva, a mixture of wheat, pomegranate seeds, sugar, almonds and other seeds served at memorial services.

In preliminary laboratory research and clinical trials, juice of the pomegranate may be effective in reducing heart disease risk factors, including LDL oxidation, macrophage oxidative status, and foam cell formation. In an article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2000, researchers detailed an experiment in which healthy adult men and unhealthy mice consumed pomegranate juice daily. After two weeks, the healthy men experienced increased antioxidant levels, which resulted in a ninety percent drop in LDL cholestoral oxidation. In the mice, “oxidation of LDL by peritoneal macrophages was reduced by up to 90% after pomegranate juice consumption…”

8 Comments »

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  1. […] Fruit of the Week – Pomegranate (beatcancer2010.wordpress.com) […]

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  5. Wonderful informative post. I’ve just used pomegranate in a colour association experiment.

  6. […] Fruit of the Week – Pomegranate (beatcancer2010.wordpress.com) […]

  7. […] Fruit of the Week – Pomegranate (beatcancer2010.wordpress.com) […]

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