“Can we get one of these?” she asked, pulling a deep pink orb from a large box. My 8-year-old niece and 10-year-old nephew were spending a week with us this past September and I had taken them grocery shopping to make sure we were well equipped with their favourite foods. “It comes with a book,” she added, holding up a small, glossy pamphlet entitled “Pom Wonderful.” The little I had ever heard or seen about pomegranates had certainly been intriguing, though not particularly inviting. I first learned of the pomegranate in grade seven Roman mythology. My teacher related the story of Proserpina, the goddess of fertility, who upon eating the forbidden seeds of this fruit, was relegated to spending six months of each year in hell. And that, dear students, is why we have winter, spring, summer and autumn. So it’s not surprising that I first tasted a pomegranate 31 years after hearing this tale of demonic abduction. Seriously, aren’t there better ways of teaching children about the changing of the seasons? Being home schooled, my niece had obviously not been subjected to learning the perils of eating pomegranate seeds, and gleefully placed the ominous fruit in the shopping cart. Back at home, I followed the instructions to slice off the crown of the pomegranate, revealing six sections of shiny, ruby-coloured gems. Next, you can either score the skin of each section and pull apart with your hands or cut through the white membrane to separate them. Any way you slice it, there is one thing the pamphlet did not warn about. Pomegranates are very messy, and unless you want your kitchen to look like a slaughterhouse, cover up everything. Your hands, your clothes, nearby appliances, the walls, you name it. Once separated, loosen the seeds (or arils as they are called) into a bowl of water. The arils will sink, while any attached membrane will detach and float to the top. Scoop out the membrane pieces, drain the water and enjoy the 600 or so juicy sweet-tart bejewelled seeds. Afterwards, I noticed I had done a great job of decorating my shirt with bright red spots. Spray cleaner turned them black. Bar soap turned them green. After a few more shots of stain remover, an overnight soaking and 53 minutes in the washing machine, just a couple faint stains remained. I have since learned to place a pan of water in the sink and submerge the pomegranate while slicing as well as during seeding. The pomegranate is rightfully experiencing a newfound popularity in North America, finding its way into desserts, salsa, soups and even beauty products. Pomegranates also add razzle-dazzle to salads, can be dotted on yogurt, mixed in with granola, or enjoyed on their own. Although pomegranate seeds destined Proserpina to a life of hell, up here these jewels loaded with vitamins C and K, folic acid and more antioxidants than green tea, are reported to help thwart heart disease, cancer and aging. Now I buy more pomegranates than bananas. In fact, we go through enough pomegranates, pomegranate sherbet and pomegranate juice to keep poor Proserpina in Hades all year ‘round.
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