I've loved Pomegranates ever since I can remember. In fact, I adore them.
My grandmother's property, a fantastic place full of all sorts of deliciousness, had a pomegranate tree that I visited with almost every weekend. I would run to it and walk around it looking for ripe fruit whenever we would go to see grandmother.
Most of the time the fruit was so high my dad would have to come help pick it up for me but other times it was low enough for me to reach using a little net with a hook, on a long stick, three times my size, that was kept in the garden tool shed to pick mangoes, avocados, coconuts and the odd breadfruit or custard apple (guanábana) left on the tree (usually they would just fall off, they were so heavy).
The tree is still there, mind you, but it is very old and diseased, uncared for since grandma died, the fruit no longer the colorful, blemish free, juicy and fresh-tasting sort I remembered from my childhood.
The memories, however, of my grandma, with her long braided hair, who always smelled of rose, violets and citrus scented body powders and who hand fed the few chickens she liked to keep around with corn she kept in an old can comes to mind every time I enjoy a pomegranate.
I incorporate pomegranate in my cooking as much as I can not only because they are a fabulous source of vitamin C and antioxidants, readily available nowadays (pomegranate season typically runs from October to December/January) but frankly, because it is such a gorgeous fruit, that not only taste good but looks great at the table and what girl does not enjoy the ruby red lips resulting on the consumption of large amounts of fresh pomegranate. Not even Sisley can do justice to the famed grenadine (a favorite of mine) in their lip gloss line. :)
Eaten while fresh, smacked with a wooden spoon until all those gorgeous crimson hued gems pop out that leave tiny splatters of juice here and there, staining the tips of my fingers as I devour them, I'm instantly transported to grandma's garden where I stained more shirts that my mother cares to remember.
I juice them at home or purchase the refrigerated juice the lovely people at POM sell at local stores (in the refrigerated section) to mix with Charbay Vodka in Meyer Lemon or Blood Orange (their pomegranate flavored vodka is wonderful too) or in very girlie pomegranate cocktails made with sparkling wine and PAMA liqueur. I add the juice to compotes and incorporate the fresh arils last minute for crunch and texture
However, it was only yesterday, while shopping for dinner at Metropolitan Market (Sandpoint) that I discovered a new pomegranate product I had not seen before in any of our neighborhood food shops. A brand new way for me to enjoy one of my favorite fruits ever.
Across from the deli, where I had just picked freshly roasted chicken, potatoes, beans, squash and roasted garlic (so I would not have to cook dinner and be able to make a Met Live in HD performance) that I spotted a display of containers full of dried pomegranate arils.
Meghan, the fromage expert in charge of the cheese counter, kindly offered me a sample when I inquired about them.
I was instantly hooked.
They are sweet and sour, crunchy and nutty, and chewy, all at once. I found a container with just enough to try and use for the day and headed home.
I took some of the arils with me to Pacific Place, for snacking during the first intermission of Thaïs. A few hours later, I sprinkled a handful of dried arils on a very late dinner of the roasted chicken and vegetables purchased at Metropolitan Market. And just today, for lunch, I sprinkled some more on an impromptu roasted chicken, haricots verts, potato and avocado salad, assembled with the leftovers from last night's lazy supper.
The rest have slowly disappeared as I write this.
Now, I find myself thinking up all the ways I can put these to good use. Including them alongside the membrillo (quince paste), nuts and fresh fruit on a cheese plate, covering them in chocolate, adding them to homemade local berry, cranberry or rhubarb compotes, to finish a dish of game, fruit plate or chocolate dessert. Or just to snack on by the handful.
And after pomegranate season has come and gone and I crave that tart and crunchy taste that makes me so very happy, I'll have my dried pomegranate arils and great memories to keep me company.
This can become addictive.
*Dried pomegranate arils are sold at Metropolitan Market (see website for locations). The cost is $36 a pound but the nice people at Met Market have them available in small plastic snap containers that sell for between $3-5 dollars each. And just like pine nuts or cocoa nibs (and about the same size) a little goes a long way.