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Pomegranate – jewel-like seeds protected by a tough skin

Juicy, refreshing, healthy and beautiful – that sums up a pomegranate, but you also have to say it takes a real effort to eat one. A pomegranate can contain up to 1,000 translucent, ruby-red seeds, the drawback is that they are protected by a leathery shell. Anyone who has enjoyed fresh pomegranate seeds knows that the effort is worthwhile. So why does the fruit make it so difficult for us, and how is it actually classified botanically?

No thick skin, no juicy seeds

It is vital for the pomegranate tree (Punica granatum) that the seeds are protected as they ripen. The fruit can grow up to 12 cm in diameter and the smooth, leathery skin can be up to 5 millimetres thick with the pea-sized, angular seeds growing and ripening safely inside it. Without the skin the seeds would wither in the heat or be eaten by birds before they were fully ripe. If pomegranates are left on the tree to ripen instead of being harvested, the skin will dry out and eventually split open so that birds can eat and distribute the mature seeds.

Possibly a superfood?

Early on the pomegranate skin is relatively soft and fleshy. As the fruit ripens the skin becomes leathery. Botanists refer to fruit that follow this ripening pattern as a "dry berry". Inside, the pomegranate seeds are closely packed in several fruit cavities, separated from each other by a whitish membrane. As the fruit matures, the flesh around the small seed kernels becomes translucent, red and juicy and the seed itself hard and woody. Pomegranates pack a real health punch with a high vitamin C content, minerals such as potassium, trace elements such as iron, B vitamins, fibre and generous amounts of phytochemicals such as polyphenols. The latter are said to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects.

As always, check for quality

When buying pomegranates, make sure each fruit is intact and mature, as they will not ripen once off the tree. You can tell whether a pomegranate is ripe by the colour of its skin. Most pomegranate varieties are red-skinned; however, there are also varieties with yellow skins. These should have a uniform yellow color. Undamaged and healthy fruits can be kept at home at room temperature for one to two weeks. Even if the shell gradually becomes wrinkled, the seeds inside will stay juicy. In the fridge, pomegranates will keep even longer – between two to four weeks.


Apart from simply eating them, there are countless ways of using pomegranate seeds in your cooking. A sprinkle of glowing red seeds is very decorative, transforming any dish from salads and fruit salads to creamy desserts and other puddings. Pomegranate juice makes a brilliant marinade for game, lamb or poultry. It also tastes refreshingly delicious in fruit drinks, sorbets, water ices and ice cream or jelly.

Opening made easy

You don’t need a special tool to open a pomegranate. The trick is to first cut a thin slice with a sharp knife off the end of the fruit where the flower would have been. Then score the skin deeply several times from the flower end to the stalk. Try not to cut so deeply that you damage the seeds. Now you should be able to break the fruit into segments to remove the seeds easily. Some people prefer to completely submerge the pomegranate in a bowl of cold water before breaking it open. The seeds will sink and the white membrane will float, so it’s easy to separate the two. This method will also help you avoid staining your clothes with pomegranate juice.


Source: Heike Stommel, www.bzfe.de