unusual origin stories, unique superpowers, everyday food
A fruit from modern day Iran. The French called it the seeded apple — pōmum grānātum. For Englishmen it was pomme-grenade, the apple of Spanish city of Grenada.
Today we know it as pomegranate. Red and leathery, each pomegranate encloses several seeds within it . Every seed sanguine in appearance and bursting forth with nutrition.
Somewhere down the line, the French developed a weapon that packs hundreds of shrapnels to burst forth just like a pomegranate packs its seeds. Ironically the weapon was named after the fruit and the world came to know grenades.
While one is a weapon of destruction the other is a symbol of life, prosperity and fertility.
Where did it all start?
The pomegranate seems to have originated in the middle east, more specifically in modern day Iran. In fact, Iran is the second largest producer of pomegranates in the world today and also holds a pomegranate festival each year.
However, the choicest of pomegranates are from Kandahar in Afghanistan. The fruit most likely travelled down to India from Afghanistan via the ancient silk route.
Looks and virtues
The tree bears small bright red flowers and fruits which is why people often plant pomegranate in their gardens. Pomegranate bonsais are also quite dainty with tiny red fruits hanging upon the miniature tree.
Looks aside, the fruit as a whole is a powerhouse of nutrients.
Pomegranates contain punicalagins and punicic acid which are powerful antioxidants. Both the seeds as well as the peel find uses in ayurvedic medicines. Pomegranate help in preventing inflammation, and arthritis. It lowers blood pressure and triglyceride i.e. the bad cholesterol.
Anti-bacterial and anti-fungal in nature, pomegranates also promote excellent oral health.
Further, each pomegranate seed is a tiny vial full of Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Folate, dietary fiber and other micronutrients. It is best to eat the seeds whole if one is to benefit from the roughage.
How is pomegranates used in everyday diet?
Pomegranates are extremely versatile. One can have them as whole fruit or as thick sauces. Thick sauces made with pomegranate juice and almonds is served as a topping for many dishes, especially Iranian ones. A thick syrup can be made by boiling pomegranate juice with good amount of sugar on a low heat for about 40–50 minutes. The syrup can then be kept in the refrigerator and used as dressings and toppings and can be a very healthy addition to a hearty American breakfast of pancakes, or waffles.
On the other hand, a spicy spread prepared with pomegranate syrup, roasted red pepper, walnuts and garlic is also very popular in Turkey and Syria. It can also used be as a marinade for various recipes Pomegranates can also be used to make Grenadine syrup — a thickened, sweetened juice of pomegranate and is used in mock tails.
In India dried seeds are used as a spice and are called “Anardana”. It is used for flavoring dishes because of the sweet yet tangy taste.
Some exotic and easy ways to use pomegranates:
Here are some of my tried and tested recipes using pomegranates. These recipes are suitable for any meal of the day, as sides as well as main. So gorge on-
Anar coconut raita
Ingredients: Pomegranate seeds -3T (?) , Grated coconut- 3T , Fresh curd- 200ml , Sugar — 1t , red chili powder -1/4 t , salt to taste.
Beat up the curd and mix all the ingredients and use it as a dip or a side dish with rice. This recipe looks very appealing and is really loved by children.
Pear/apple pomegranate salad
Ingredients : Pears/apple — 1 diced , pomegranate -1/2cup, olive oil — 1t , lemon juice — 1t , mustard powder — ¼ t , honey ½ T, cabbage — ½ C , black pepper to taste
Method: Heat oil, add mustard powder, pepper powder and salt. Turn off the flame and add the lemon juice and honey. Now add all other ingredients and toss .Serve in a bowl.
Dalia (broken wheat) pomegranate relish
Ingredients : Dalia- 4T ,Oil -1t , pomegranate seeds — 1C , pineapple-1/2 C , cucumber diced- ½ C , Fresh mint — 2–3twigs , green chilies- 1chopped , lemon juice- 2t , black salt- ½ t , black pepper pounded — to taste.
Method: Heat a pan, put the oil into it and roast the Dalia on as low heat for about 5 minutes. Cook Dalia in a pressure cooker/ microwave with adequate water and salt . Blend the mint leaves, chilies into a paste with 1T water and keep it aside for dressing. Transfer the Dalia into a bowl, add the black salt, pepper and salt to taste and combine. Now add all the other ingredients and toss. Serve with the dressing.This can be had in the breakfast or as a main course in the dinner also. It is highly recommended for diabetics as well.
These are just few ways to incorporate pomegranate into our dishes and to brighten up the look, taste, as well the nutritive value of our menu.
So try out these recipes, and let me know how you find them. Happy cooking, Healthy eating.
Sagarika Mishra,Consultant Nutritionist