Pomegranates have a rich cultural heritage that starts in Greek mythology. It is said that when Persephone was kidnapped by Hades, the God of the Underworld, he tricked her into eating pomegranate seeds to make sure she could never leave, for if someone were to eat or drink in the Underworld they would have to stay there forever. They have traveled from Persia to California through various trade routes, stopping in Carthage, Rome, and Granada. We love their symbolism of feminine power and fertility, and therefore sprinkle it on our salads all throughout the Fall.
Pomegranates range in color from being deep red to some varieties that are light pink with orange tones. They are the size and shape of softballs, except with a narrow crown. They have a thick, leather-ish exterior, which reveals many little juicy seeds when it is sliced open. The best way to do this is to cut off the top of the fruit, about one inch below the crown, and then slice them into wedges, they way you would an orange. The whitish membrane surrounding the seeds is somewhat astringent, and should be avoided.
In the past couple of years pomegranates have become quite popular because of their high levels of antioxidants. Pomegranates contain polyphenols, which are the most potent antioxidants, and they contain more of them than red wine and blueberries. Many companies have capitalized on these powerfully healthy fruits, producing quite a variety of products touting the benefits of their special ingredient. Be wary of these products, as they also contain a lot of added sugar (Pom Wonderful contains more sugar than Coca Cola). Adding pomegranate seeds to your diet in their whole form is a great way of adding antioxidants to your diet, without adding extra sugars. In addition to their polyphenols, pomegranates are also a great source of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.
The pomegranate was the central symbol in the coat of arms of Catherine of Aragon. The fruit's tough exterior is said to be comparable to her own personality.