Pomegranates

Ancient health food ... pomegranates are thought to be the world's oldest fruit. Photo: Jennifer Soo

Pomegranates have become the poster fruit for healthy eating and not without reason - they're beautiful, delicious and full of vitamins. Here are some fun pomegranate facts and creative ways to prep this luscious fruit.

The name comes from the Latin words pomum granatum, which literally means "seeded apple". It's the oldest known fruit; experts trace its origins back to northern India and Iran. The Spanish conquistadors brought the pomegranate to America in the early 1500s.

The seeds are what you want from this succulent fruit. After you open one, you'll find hundreds of them packed into little compartments that are separated by bitter-tasting, whitish membranes. Each seed is surrounded by a transparent red pulp that is sweet yet tart - that's the tasty stuff.

All the press has gone to pomegranate juice, but nothing can replace the real deal. Half of a pomegranate (the equivalent of two servings of fruit) contains 117 calories (490kj), 26.5 grams of carbs and 5.5gm of fibre. This red beauty is also an excellent source of vitamin C , vitamin K, folate and potassium and a good source of numerous energy-boosting B vitamins and phosphorus.

But wait, there's more! This exotic fruit is jam-packed with polyphenols, antioxidants linked to the prevention of heart disease and cancer.

Opening a fresh pomegranate takes some practice. Slice the fruit in half and pry out the seeds with your hands or slice the crown end off and slit the rind vertically in several places from top to bottom. Then, place the fruit in a bowl of water, and break the sections apart. The seeds will sink to the bottom while the rind and membrane will float. Collect the seeds in a colander, and drain off the excess water.

Use a food processor to turn the seeds into fresh pomegranate juice. Don't forget to strain the results through a fine mesh sieve to catch stray seeds. You can store the juice in the freezer for up to a month.

Shopping tip: Look for fruits with shiny, smooth skins that are heavy for their size, brightly coloured and free of blemishes.

Unopened, pomegranates will last in the fridge for up to two months, or store them in a cool, dark place for a month. You can keep seeds in the refrigerator for about three days or freeze them for up to six months.

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