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The power of pomegranate

Seeds of sweet-tart fruit are tasty and healthful

Seeds of sweet-tart fruit are tasty and healthful

June 18, 2008|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

Pomegranates make it easier to believe that good-for-you food can taste good, too.

The onion-shaped, red-hued fruit has a thick leathery skin and fleshy, edible seeds inside.

Pomegranates join the list of "super foods" rich with antioxidants, known to protect the body against heart disease and cancer, said Robin Thomas, a nutritionist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Eating a half cup of pomegranate seeds would satisfy 14 percent of the recommended daily value for fiber, 15 percent for vitamin C, and 18 percent for vitamin K, Thomas said.

What pomegranates lack in user friendliness - you have to cut it open and scoop out the seeds - they make up for in taste.

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The sweet-tart seeds are what you eat. They are good complements for salads, said Thomas Heilman, executive chef at Ceresville Mansion in Frederick, Md.

"It has a tartness that offsets the sweetness of the lettuce," Heilman said. "It also adds crunchiness."

Heilman serves a bibb and oak leaf salad with orange slices, shaved red onion and pomegranate seeds, with a citrus vinaigrette. The seeds can be used in salsas and as a garnish, Heilman said.

The flesh from pomegranate seeds is used to make pomegranate juice, which you can find at the grocery story year-round, even when the fruit isn't in season.

This keeps open the option of making refreshing summer drinks like a pomegranate pink jade - pomegranate juice, orange juice with sparkling water, vodka optional. The California-based Pomegranate Council offers the pomegranate pink jade and several other drink recipes on its Web site, www.pomegranates.org.

In ancient times, pomegranate was used for medicinal purposes, said Peggy Carey, a wellness coach in Berkeley Springs, W.Va. It's only recently that it's gained the attention of health-conscious American consumers.

"I guess, before it was considered exotic," Carey said. "People didn't know how to eat it, what to do with it."

Pomegranate is available from U.S. growers in the fall and winter, and demand is growing. It's easily found at the neighborhood grocer when it's in season, Maryland produce distributors said.

"It's become more popular over the last few years as people become aware of its health benefits," said Mark Evans, a salesman for Tony Vitrano Company, a Jessup, Md., wholesale produce distributor whose clientele includes regional grocery chains.

Dave's Wholesale Produce, a Hagerstown-based distributor that serves local restaurants, started selling pomegranates two or three years ago because of the number of clients requesting them, said Sharon Fay, the company's president.

"We sell a good bit," Fay said.

The Associated Press recently reported that in New York City, pomegranate seeds are being imported to meet consumer demand.

Carey said she doesn't think interest in pomegranate is a fleeting fad.

"People are starting to realize they can prevent certain chronic conditions by using nutrition as medicine," Carey said.




Pomegranate pink jade



Cook's note: You can mix the juices and the optional vodka up to a day ahead, stored sealed in the refrigerator. Don't add the sparkling water until just before serving.

2 cups pomegranate juice
1 1/2 cups orange juice
1 1/2 cups sparkling water
1 cup and 2 tablespoons vodka (optional)
Ice cubes

In a large glass, mix pomegranate juice and remaining ingredients. Add ice cubes.

Serves 6.

- Courtesy of the Pomegranate Council

Pomegranate margaritas



2 cups pomegranate juice, enough to fill 1 ice tray
1/2 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur
1/2 cup tequila
Margarita salt

Pour pomegranate juice into ice cube tray. Freeze until solid, about 2 hours. Pop cubes from tray. In a blender, combine lime juice, liqueur and tequila. Turn blender to the highest speed and gradually drop in all but 2 juice cubes, whirling until slushy. Wet the top of serving glass and rim with salt. Place a pomegranate cube in the bottom of each glass. Pour margarita mixture in and enjoy.

Serves 2.

- Courtesy of the Pomegranate Council

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