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Why are we so worried about how to eat a pomegranate?

Kathleen Purvis
Kathleen Purvis is the Food Editor for The Charlotte Observer.

You have to help them, the guy on the phone said. He had been in a supermarket produce department and a bunch of women were clustered around the pile of pomegranates.

They were all talking about how they never know what to do with a pomegranate. He thought I should do something to help them.

Sometimes the smallest things stump us, don’t they? I answer questions on food and cooking every day, and I hardly ever get calls about things that are big and cosmic. What I hear are worries about small things.

Pomegranates have been around since ancient times, and they’re definitely good for you, with lots of antioxidants (although the federal government has challenged some of the health-cure claims). But people are always puzzled on how to eat the darn things.

The issue of how to get into the pomegranate and get the red seeds, actually called arils, is easy. There are several methods floating around online, including one trick involving a wooden spoon and shaking pomegranate seeds out in clusters. But pomegranate juice stains something fierce, so I’m a believer in using water:

Slice off the top, then use a knife tip to make a few straight cuts through the leathery skin. Fill a bowl with water, pull the pomegranate apart in big chunks along the lines you cut in the skin. Drop the chunks of seeds in the water and throw away the skin.

Holding the chunks under water, pull the bright red seeds off the pieces of white pith – the thin white membrane holding them together. Keep swishing them around and the seeds will fall to the bottom, while the pith floats to the top. Scoop it off and keep swishing things around until you don’t have anything left but red seeds. Drain them and dry them.

That will keep the arils from getting crushed, wasting the juice and making your shirt look like a costume from “The Walking Dead.”

The part that seems to puzzle people the most is what comes next: eating the seeds. The arils have hard white bits inside the sac of bright red juice. But yes, you eat the whole thing.

The white bits are good sources of fiber. And you don’t really notice them under that exploding red juice. If you sprinkle the seeds into salads, they’re just one more crunchy thing along with all the other crunchy things.

You can do a lot with them, though. You can freeze them for later, or toss them on ice cream. I once had dark chocolate bark sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and coarse salt and it was amazing, an explosion of color and flavor.

If the whole seeds worry you, make pomegranate juice: Toss the whole seeds in a blender, puree them, then strain out the white bits. Stir in a little sugar if it’s too tart.

Here’s hoping that the rest of the questions I get in 2014 are as simple as this one.

Join the food conversation at Kathleen Purvis’ blog I’ll Bite, at obsbite.blogspot.com, or follow her on Twitter, @kathleenpurvis.

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