I’ve never been able to make my mind up about pomegranates. They’re a fruit I feel I really ought to like, with their good looks and ancient pedigree, but, I’ve always been somewhat underwhelmed. While visually arresting to say the least, most of the fruit I’ve tried were insipid and marred by unpleasantly woody seeds.
But last week in my local supermarket I happened upon a new product that has changed my opinion completely – vacuum packed fresh pomegranate seeds from India. Oh, I know I’ve railed against pre-prepared fruit in the past, but have you ever tried to deal with a fresh pomegranate? Total pain the south passage. I haven’t been so excited about a new food product in a very long time.
I had great plans to sprinkle the jewel-like capsules of ruby juice over a dessert or maybe a pilaf, but anything other than immediate and copious consumption was quickly forgotten. The tightly packed juice capsules explode in the mouth with an almost audible pop, flooding the palate with their gorgeous, berry-wine flavoured contents. Better still; the seeds are of this variety are only very slightly harder than passion fruit seeds. Standing together at the bench, my best beloved and I finished off the entire punnet and I was off down the supermarket for another shortly afterwards.
Up until now fresh pomegranates have only been available in New Zealand in the form of whole fruit imported from California. The predominant variety grown in California is ‘Wonderful’, a perfectly pleasant fruit, but known for its rather tough seeds. Pomegranates are really more novelty than serious contender for the fruit bowl in western countries, and most of don’t know any better than the passable mediocrity of Wonderful. In India and the Middle East however, the pomegranate is a popular and highly esteemed eating fruit, with many varieties (and colours- ranging from white to almost black) available for a range of different uses, including juicing, drying and of course eating fresh. The best eating pomegranates have soft seeds and a complex winey flavour.
I’d be hard pressed to find reasons to emigrate to the Middle East these days. I fear my indefinable, could-be -Arabic features would probably get me shot as a ‘dissident’ (did Fox News invent this word?) or sent off to Guantanamo Bay (STILL open BTW Barack) on a charge of suspicious possession of olive skin. But knowing now how good pomegranates can be, I could just about take that risk- especially if it meant easy access to the truely seedless cultivars I’m told they grow in the region. But alas, I’m bound by family, mortgage and a modicum of sanity to stay in New Zealand. Until somebody starts importing axis of evil seedless pomegranates I guess I’ll just have to settle for those neatly packaged, soft-seeded jewels from India. Not such a sacrifice, let me tell you.
As is always the case when I’m impressed by a new fruit, I planted a few seeds of the luscious Indians. Genetics are unpredictable with selectively bred fruit trees so only time will tell…
Fresharin fresh pomegranate seeds 150gm punnets retail at around $5 and are distributed by Turners & Growers to Selected fruit shops and Supermarkets.