Pretty Pomegranates Arrive Ready to Eat
Pomegranates are popular for many reasons – beautiful bright red flowers in the spring turn to striking red fruits in the fall, health benefits and fabulous flavors. California is the leading commercial producer of pomegranates in the United States and your farmers’ market is featuring the local harvest this month.
Pomegranates arrive ripe and ready to eat so you won’t have to wait. Choose those that are heavy (the juiciest) for their size with taut, bruise free skins. Any signs of cracking just indicates the fruit is completely ripe and beginning to burst with flavor.
Only the shiny red kernels under the leathery skin are edible. The kernels are encased in a spongy white pith and each one is full of sweet tart juice and one small woody seed. Once the kernels are loosened, they are eaten fresh, used as a garnish on entrees, salads and desserts or juiced and strained to make jellies and sorbets. Drop a few pomegranate seeds into a glass of champagne or sparkling cider for a special effect or try finishing avocado toast or bruschetta with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds.
What is the easiest way to separate the kernels from the pith? Use a sharp knife to cut a thin piece off the crown of the pomegranate. Slit the skin from top to bottom in three or four places and pull the fruit open using both hands. Immerse the sections in a bowl of cool water and soak for about 5 minutes. Then hold the fruit under the water and separate the seeds from the membrane. The seeds sink to the bottom and the pith floats to the top to be discarded.
Pomegranates destined for jelly making or juice may be cut in half crosswise and gently squeezed on a juicer. Wear old clothing for this method since any undirected juice is almost indelible.
Pomegranates store at room temperature for two or three weeks. Place some in a pretty bowl and use them for decoration. Refrigeration extends their shelf life for up to two months.
Wild Rice Pilaf with Pomegranate Seeds
1 tablespoon olive oil
One quarter cup finely chopped onion
1 cup wild rice, rinsed
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
One quarter cup pine nuts
Seeds from one large pomegranate
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
2-3 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté. Add wild rice and stir. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until the rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes. If rice is cooked and there’s too much liquid remaining you can strain the rice.
While rice is cooking, toast pine nuts in a small, dry skillet over medium low heat. Stir constantly until light golden and fragrant, two to three minutes. Cool.
Mix pomegranate seeds, lemon zest, parsley and toasted pine nuts into the pilaf. Serve hot.
The Orinda market is open every Saturday from 9 am to 1 p.m. on Orinda Way in front of Rite Aid and the Community Park. For more information go to www.cccfm.org or call the market hotline at (925)431-8361.