Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Pomegranate Pomegranate Revolution

When I was growing up, my best friend's mom, Janis, gave us pomegranates to enjoy. "Eat them outside!" she'd warn us, not wanting any of the gorgeous blood red juices to stain anything in the house. That seemed a fair trade for the ruby-filled fruits, that were a puzzle and a snack all in one. Popping the little fruit gems out of the pith took a bit of effort, but biting into each perfect seed was a tart and sweet reward.

Just before she died, I wrote Janis a thank you note. It was late, I conceded, but better late than never. In the letter I thanked her for many things: for being my second mom; for being adventurous and strong; for being a soccer mom who plays soccer, not just one who shuttles the kids from game to game; for feeding me pomegranates, and Cheetos, and fresh vegetables from the garden; and for mothering me when I felt lost, after my own mom had left the building. It was a short thank you note, since it didn't require much explaining, but pomegranates made the cut. I remember thinking as I was writing that it felt silly to include food, but there they were, crystal-clear, important memories from my childhood of eating pomegranates and Cheetos, two foods my parents never bought. They would have fed us pomegranates had we asked, but I am the product of two neatniks, and that dangerous red juice didn't match our decor.

Until a few months ago, when the pomegranate craze really took over, I felt like they were my secret fruit. Many of my friends had never tried them, and some had never heard of them, despite the fact that there is historical evidence to suggest that they've been around for thousands of years. But here we are, with pomegranate martinis, pomegranate marinades, pomegranate juice, and more. They're one of nature's most powerful antioxidants, earning them headline status in our health obsessed society. Despite my skepticism, being the daughter of a woman who died of cancer too young, I'll take all the power I can get.

The most prevalent juice on the shelves is POM Wonderful, which is pure pomegratate juice from the Wonderful variety of pomegranates. They have five different flavors of juice combinations, pomegranate with cherry, blueberry, mango, tangerine, and plain. I've tried cherry, blueberry, and plain. My favorite so far is cherry. The slightly sweeter cherry cuts a bit of the tannic tang of the pomegranate for a potent and delicious drink. They're perfect mixed with bubbly seltzer for a kind of Italian soda without the syrup, or you can drink them plain. Don't expect a sweet drink, this is adult juice, not that fruit punch bug juice we loved as kids. At nearly $4 a bottle, it's not cheap either. But it's a delicious treat once in a while. If you try the mango or tangerine flavors, let me know what you think. My friend Kat isn't a big fan of tangerine, so I'm waiting on that one. But I'm sure I'll try it for myself one of these days.

For a bit of the history and science behind the pomegranate, check out Pom Wonderful's website. www.pomwonderful.com Ever wonder why grenadine and grenades share a root word? Both are named after the pomegranate, because one is made from pomegranate juice, and the other explodes like one. Cool, no?


Blogger Matt said...

Of interest at the pomegranate history page is that the 'apple' in the 'garden of eden' was perhaps really a pomegranate.

6/04/2005 9:56 PM  

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