Have you ever heard the mythological story of Persephone and the reason for the seasons?  This tale was one of my favorites as a child and is how I came to learn about pomegranates.

Persephone is the beautiful daughter of Zeus and Demeter, the goddess of crops.  One day Persephone is stolen by Hades, the god of the underworld, and brought to his kingdom of the dead.  Demeter begs for her return and, although a deal is struck, Persephone broke a rule of the underworld (no food!) and ate six pomegranate seeds. As a result, she is allowed to return to live with her mother for only six months of the year; for the other six months (one for each seed she ate) she must remain with Hades, as his Queen of the underworld.  Her mother, the goddess of crops, is so sad when Persephone is away, the crops die and create the changing of the seasons; upon her return, the crops again grow, restoring joy and light to the world.

Today I still love this mythological tale and how it stretches the imagination…I also still love pomegranates! Each seed, or aril, is a beautiful jewel, tasting deliciously tart!  Pomegranate’s special flavor allows for it to be paired with sweet and savory dishes and is an ingredient used in many forms.  Cooks around the world prize its seeds and juice, and turn to pomegranate vinegar and molasses to add a special sweet-tart note to a wide range of dishes. Add pomegranate arils to Greek yogurt for a delicious dessert or to your next batch of tabouleh. Make some muhammara with pomegranate molasses or dress up a salad with some pomegranate vinegar. Trust me, your taste buds will thank you! With winter upon us, and pomegranates being widely available, it is the perfect time to enjoy them and be thankful you can don’t have to eat them in the underworld!

Before we get to eating these ruby beauties, how about we learn a bit about them?

  • The botanical name for pomegranate is Punica granatum.
  • The pomegranate is believed to be one of the first cultivated fruits and is native to Iran.  Since ancient times they have been cultivated throughout the Mediterranean and Asia.  Today, many of the pomegranates we enjoy in the United States are grown in California.
  • Thanks to the polyphenols in pomegranates, these fruits pack antioxidant power shown to contain potent cancer fighting and cardiovascular benefits.
  • According to the USDA, ½ cup serving of pomegranate seeds has only 72 calories.
  • The number of pomegranate seeds per fruit varies greatly; estimates suggest that this range can be from 200 – 1,400 seeds!
  • Pomegranates are packed with seeds and history!  Historical references trace them back to 3000 B.C.
  • From celebrations of life and death to marriage ceremonies and fertility rituals, across cultures pomegranates were considered a sacred symbol.  They were buried in tombs of Egyptians, considered one of the three blessed fruits in Buddhism, and some scholars even suggest it was a pomegranate that tempted Eve and not an apple!

And without further adieu here are Oldways ideas for 12 Great Ways to Use Pomegranates!

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