An Ode to Pomegranates

by Sarah on October 19, 2011

pomegranate flower

In autumn, the pomegranate tree is a messy beauty, shedding its leaves in haphazard clumps to reveal the scraggly branches beneath. The soft light of winter illuminates its svelte limbs, minimalistic and bare.

pomegranates and apples

Pomegranates and apples, Ramle outdoor market

Spring brings new foliage, still sparse and tinged with youth. This tentative growth swells into a mass of crayon green, in sharp contrast to the muted shades of the olive leaves. When the days grow longer the tree becomes a pyrotechnic petal extravaganza, a flamboyant celebration triggered only by sun and air. Soon it begins to rain crimson, blossoms covering the front walk like a bridal path.

pomegranates in jerusalem

Pomegranates, ancient bazaar in Jerusalem

Summer’s heat will transform the buds into crowned fruits, the boughs straining with the burden. If the fruit are not picked they dehydrate, still clinging to the tree or ferment, leaving dark puddles of pungent wine scented syrup.

Uncharacteristic of me I don’t use the pomegranates from my tree. It is the sweet variety and I have always preferred fruits with a zing of acidity, granny smith apples as opposed to prickly pears. But it is also because the pomegranate is susceptible to disease and becomes buggy and rotten if the developing fruit are not covered with paper bags. The tree is far too beautiful to be practical and I have never done this.

pomegranate

Instead I sit outside between the olive and pomegranate, intensely aware of time as the first leaves unfurl or another season of flowers decorate our yard.

In Israel, pomegranate season occurs in early autumn and coincides with the Jewish New Year and the Feast of the Tabernacles. It has traditionally been used as a symbolic fruit during these high holidays and is often incorporated into the meal.

While pomegranate trees grow wild in Israel, probably relicts from abandoned groves, it originates in Iran. Persians use it to make fesenjān, chicken with pomegranate syrup and walnuts. Other countries in the region, most notably Turkey, Azerbaijan, Syria and India use either the whole seed or pomegranate juice in a variety of savory and sweet dishes.

pomegranate

I shied away from tradition and made pomegranate sorbet instead. I need to thank two people for this. First, Yael who gave us a sack of ruby reds from her garden after treating us to the best roast beef I have ever tasted (the credit goes to her husband Erez who adoped a recipe by molecular gastronomist Heston Blumenthal ). Of course with all this bounty and the temperatures still in the upper 30′s (Celcius) I was inspired to make Gourmet Worrier’s gorgeous sorbet. Her tip, add a splash of gin or vodka. I only had rum lying around the house so that’s what I used but I think arak would also pair well with the astringency of the sorbet. For those who don’t have the time to prepare this simple recipe, pomegranate wine is a nice alternative.

The only problem, juicing pomegranates is a messy endeavor making my kitchen look like Pollock might have walked through it.

pomegranate sorbet

Pomegranate Sorbet

2 cups of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice

4 tablespoons sugar

In a small pot add the sugar and about 1/4 cup water. Heat the mixture until the sugar dissolves in the water and becomes syrupy. Let cool.

Mix the pomegranate juice with the sugar syrup, adding more or less according to taste.

Add the mixture to an ice cream machine, following manufacturer’s directions. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, make granita instead. Pour the juice onto a tray and put it in the freezer for about 30 minutes or until is it partly frozen. Using a fork scrape the developing ice and return to the freezer. Repeat every 10-20 minutes until the entire tray is frozen.

More interesting reads:

Read more about pomegranate history (plus gorgeous photographs) on Yael’s blog.

Café Liz added coconut and orange juice in her sorbet.

Pomegranate’s health benefits and an Israeli company focusing on this fruit : Pomegranate: Nature’s Power Fruit?

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Yaelian October 19, 2011 at 4:54 am

Oh what a lovely recipe and post! Pomegranates do deserve an ode:)

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Sarah October 19, 2011 at 5:01 am

Thanks Yaelian!

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foodwanderings October 19, 2011 at 5:53 am

וואו התמונה הראשונה של הפריחה ממש מדהימה. תמיד רציתי להכין סורבט רימונים ולא רציתי לסחוט עץ רימונין בחצר נשמע מאוד רומנטי

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Yael October 19, 2011 at 7:29 am

Lovely post and beautiful pictures. There are a lot more fruits on the tree if you’d like to try other recipes.

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Sarah October 19, 2011 at 7:48 am

thanks! would love to make the Persian recipe with the walnuts and pomegranate juice…

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Rosa October 19, 2011 at 8:12 am

I love pomegranates! They are so versatile, delicious and healthy.Thanks for sharing.

Cheers,

Rosa

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Dahlia Klein October 19, 2011 at 1:30 pm

My husband introduced me to a really cool way to drink the juice from the pomegranate directly from the fruit. You roll it around a hard surface a few times to soften it up and then bite off a small piece of the peel, keeping your mouth on it. The juice will flow right out like a fountain.

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Sarah October 19, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Cool! will need to try that. I remember doing something like that with oranges.

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usha October 20, 2011 at 3:48 am

The photo of the crates of the fruit ranged along the stone steps and wall….quite one of the most interesting pictures I have seen in weeks. Just beautiful !
Have you tried natural yoghurt,stirred till creamy’ with salt, a pinch of sugar, freshly ground black pepper,coriander leaves chopped fine and gorgeous little pomegranate rubies ?

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Sarah October 20, 2011 at 3:52 am

Thanks Usha! Your suggestion sounds yummy, will have to try it. I have tried a Persian recipe with grilled eggplants, mint, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and pomegranate seeds, very tasty too. The pomegranate photograph in Jerusalem was taken last year on a trip with my friend Yael (hope it will rain).

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Nanette October 20, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Love that photo of the pomegranates in the ancient bazaar in Jerusalem. The steps remind me of Valletta in Malta.

We’re heading into Summer in Melbourne and I’m currently dusting off the cobwebs from my ice cream machine. Pomegranate sorbet is high on my list!

Never thought to add a splash or Arak – you’re a culinary genius!

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Sarah October 22, 2011 at 8:12 am

Thanks Nanette, It’s a pity you don’t live next door. The only problem with my ice cream machine, it’s too small. For the ice cream appetites around here, I need an industrial ice cream maker.

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Katherine Martinelli October 22, 2011 at 7:22 am

What a beautiful ode to pomegranates! This sorbet looks stunning, a perfect use for them!

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Sarah October 22, 2011 at 8:12 am

Thanks Katherine, Hope you had a great time in Rhodes!

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katarina November 10, 2011 at 9:46 am

try pomegranate juice with a small squeeze of lime and lemon juice mix it in with your salad :) very good. i tried this idea once when i was in paris very delicious

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Sarah November 10, 2011 at 10:08 am

Excellent idea Katarina, Will try it!

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The Feed November 17, 2011 at 1:17 pm

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yumivore September 17, 2012 at 3:16 pm

timeless post, beautiful ode to pomegranates and it made a wonderful additional to current good reads and great finds: http://yumivore.com/2012/09/16/good-reads-and-great-finds-2/

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