Food » Concoctions

The Original Sin… Pomegranate

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If you’ve ever broken open a pomegranate you might ask yourself, “Why would anyone want to eat that?” Granted, it’s not the most appealing fruit to American palettes that prefer large volumes of soft homogenous flesh in their fruit. The inside of a pomegranate contains hundreds of smaller flesh covered seeds and resembles a tumor gone bad rather than a fruit. But this apple shaped fruit with what looks like a bullet exit on one end has been around for millennia. Some scholars even believe that in the Garden of Eden Eve actually plucked a pomegranate and not an apple as modern Western religious folk would have you believe.

Cultivated around the Mediterranean and Middle East for as long as recorded history, the flavor ranges from sweet to tart with a strong tannin flavor. Most people have already encountered pomegranate juice in the form of Grenadine syrup, which is thickened and sweetened pomegranate juice.

As Europeans migrated to the new world, they brought the fruit with them to cultivate. The reasons were simple. It is easy to grow in warm and temperate climates. Its versatility allows it to be used as a juice, in foods, as spices and as medicine. One pomegranate can provide 40 percent of a daily requirement for vitamin C and it has a large range of anti-oxidants. It has been shown in clinical trials to be effective in reducing heart risk factors, lowering blood pressure and has had some promising results in combating prostate cancer.

With it’s popularity rising in the West (Oprah has her own version of a pomegranate martini) it is no wonder we would find new pomegranate products creeping on to the shelves. Pomegranate juice sales increased 800 percent in 2005 and at least two liquor companies have incorporated the pomegranate into their products as well.

PAMA, produced by PAMA Spirits Co. in Bardstown, Kentucky, uses California pomegranates to create a sweet and tangy liqueur that mixes great in light summer drinks and martinis. Lately, I’ve found it nice over ice topped with club soda and a lime but the tag that comes on the neck of each bottle has an array of cocktail recipes to try.

One of my favorite vodkas, Pearl, has introduced a new pomegranate flavored vodka called Persephone which makes a fantastic martini. The name is a clue to the ancient story behind the pomegranate. In Greek mythology, Hades kidnapped Persephone to be his wife in the underworld. When Persephone’s mother, Demeter mourned for her, all things green quit growing as mama was the goddess of the harvest. That’s when papa Zeus stepped in. He couldn’t see the earth dying over this matter. But the Fates had ruled that anyone who ate or drank in the underworld was cursed to spend eternity there. And, after Hades tricked Persephone to eat six pomegranate seeds she was cursed to spend six months of the year down below. So, when Persephone is underground, mom mourns and we have fall and winter.

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