The Food That Changed My Life
(And Emptied My Wallet)
I’ll let you guess. The name of this tree-grown fruit comes from Medieval Latin, meaning “seeded apple.” Its scientific name is Punica granatum and it is technically considered a berry. The size of this fruit is between a lemon and a grapefruit; the skin is thick and dark pink. Figured it out?
It’s a pomegranate!
What’s so cool about pomegranates, you ask?
To start, I can safely assume that many readers have never eaten a pomegranate. Pomegranates do not grow in Ohio and tend to be rather expensive at the grocery. I was lucky enough to grow up in Nevada with a fully functional pomegranate tree in my backyard, so I treasured the taste of the fruit as a young child. My mother always took the time to scoop the aril (the edible morsels inside the pomegranate) out for me when I was young, so I had no idea what to expect when I was introduced to my first pomegranate in seven and a half years this December over holiday break.
Casually browsing the grocery with my mom, I noticed the pomegranates perched beside the granny smith apples. Like a little kid, I ran over to them and stuck my hands in the piles of poms, palming them and running my fingers over their imperfections. After begging and pleading (almost on my knees), my mom agreed to purchase two pomegranates, which she claimed would last me four sittings total. After painstakingly examining each pomegranate the Commissary had to offer, I selected the ones with the least amount of flaws. I had never been so excited to eat fruit.
My mom offered to scoop the aril out for me as she did years before, but I turned her down, grabbing our largest knife and slicing the giant pomegranate into fours as if I innately knew to do so. I was 18 and I could take care of my own poms. I sat down with two of the four slices and was immediately frightened. Do I eat this white comb-like substance? Do I eat the entire aril or suck off the fruit around the seed? Why are my fingers already stained pink? Why isn’t all of the aril the same color? Do I eat the light pink/white/milky brown aril along with the dark pink aril?
“I don’t know,” my mom snapped after I let the questions out in one breath. I began to eat the fruit timidly, treading lightly around this rather complicated fruit that I had never excavated myself. And that’s exactly what it is – an excavation! The aril must be dug out from the white membrane because, as I learned the tough way, the membrane is one of the worst tasting things this side of Brussel sprouts. However, after beginning to understand how to extract the aril without eating the membrane and without getting pomegranate juice in my eyes, I was hooked. Hooked to the taste, the thrill of the challenge, the entertainment I got by simply picking the fruit apart. I finished the entire pomegranate in that one sitting.
The following day, I ate the entire other pomegranate and immediately drove to my local Kroger, buying only four more pomegranates in order to avoid the overkill of eating one every day. With each pom I ate, I noticed that I learned more things about how the fruit worked: how to crack the skin to expose the ripest aril, how to know which aril to avoid, how heavy and what color an ideal pomegranate should be, and just recently, I learned how to eat a pom like an apple! By the end of holiday break, I was eating up to two pomegranates a day.
Pomegranates are such a fabulous snack/meal with an interesting history. In the United States, pomegranates grow in parts of California, Arizona, and select places in the West. However, they are native to Iran and grow in the Mediterranean, the Middle East, the tropics of Africa, India, and Southeast Asia. Pomegranates are mentioned in multiple ancient holy texts, including the Bible and the Koran and are also found in the Iliad and the Odyssey. They are often depicted as heavenly symbols of fertility, love, happiness, and the goodness of God or the gods. Pomegranates are used for natural medicine purposes, and are quality sources of Vitamin C, potassium, and Vitamin B5. The fruit is also speculated to aid in reducing heart disease, dental plaque, the risk of diabetes, and even help sooth sufferers of the common cold.
I didn’t know of the history or benefits of the pomegranate when I ate my first pomegranate in Nevada or when I became reacquainted with the pom two months ago. However, I did discover all on my own how rewarding working for one’s food can be. I feel that cracking open a pom and taking the time to remove each and every aril with my bare hands unlocked a sort of primitive side to me. When I would finish a fruit, I would be completely stress-free. I would not only miss the taste but the process of eating the pomegranate and the little reward that each aril was. It is an experience I have not had with any other fruit or any other food in general. I truly look forward to buying and eating pomegranates – I wish I could find someone who has had a similar experience as me with pomegranates or any other fruit/vegetable/etc! Let me know if you’re down to split a pom and I’ll buy.
The lesson to be learned here, I believe, is to truly enjoy what you’re putting through your digestive system. Savor your food – find the healthy, fresh foods that make you happy for whatever quirky reasons. Heck, I don’t hide my obsession with pomegranates, so don’t hide your foodie nature! I’m always spouting off about my “pom lifestyle” to anyone who will listen. My mood regularly revolves around whether or not I have fresh poms in my fridge, and I never forgive myself if I let a pomegranate go bad.
The official pomegranate season for the Northern Hemisphere is September to February. I just had my last pom of the season while I wrote this article. Parting is such sweet sorrow!
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