Serving up superfood pomegranates

ORIELLE BERRY

Did you know that pomegranates are considered one of the superfoods and that it’s a fast-growing industry in South Africa?

According to the Pomegranate Association of South Africa (POMASA) there are at least 760 ha of pomegranates planted in the country, where they thrive in warm, sunny climates.

Pomasa says there are about 2.5 million tons of commercially grown pomegranates in the world and while less than 5% is grown in the Southern hemisphere, many people are switching on to the health-giving benefits of this beautiful crimson fruit, which has glistening ruby-like seeds.

Pomegranates are now in season, which continues until the middle of May and recent statistics show the annual harvest is around 500 tons.

It’s easy to ask what is not to like, because the fruit is moderate in calories, about 83 calories per 100 grams; slightly more than that in the apples. It contains no cholesterol or saturated fats; is a good source of soluble and insoluble dietary fibres; studies suggest that the punicalagin and tannins found in the seeds can be effective in reducing heart-disease risk factors by scavenging harmful free radicals from the human body; and, it is also a good source of antioxidant vitamin-C.

In addition, regular consumption of pomegranates has also been found to be effective against prostate cancer, diabetes and lymphoma.

When I lived in Darling, I had a pomegranate tree and we eagerly awaited the season so we could pluck the fruit off the trees. Before they made it into any dish, we would pull the seeds out and devour them, their distinctive sharp sweet taste a culinary pleasure; their crimson juice staining hands for many hours, a fond memory of the taste sensation they left. If you visit the small West Coast hamlet today, you’ll find a producer who sells the most delicious pomegranate juice; a real treat especially when you know it’s so good for you.

If you spot them at a market or a food store, know that the fruit are ripe when they are a bright red and impart a metallic sound when tapped by the finger. Avoid spotted, overmature fruits as they can be bitter and inedible. At home, store them in a cool dark place at room temperature for five to eight days or more. They can also be placed in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

I made two salads with them on the weekend, one for breakfast and one to add to Sunday lunch.

Pineapple and pomegranate plate

(This is as easy as one, two, three and feeds two people)

Ingredients

1 large pineapple

1 pomegranate

Method

Cut the ends of the pineapple and remove the spiky skin.

Cut in half lengthwise and then cut each half into lengthwise wedges.

Scatter on a large plate.

Cut the pomegranate in half and using a scouring knife or a sharp knife, gently ease out the seeds. You can lift clusters of the “aril” sacs out, and separate the white membrane, pith, and rinds. Alternatively, hold the section of fruit upside down and beat gently with a wooden stick so that its seeds drop down detached.

Scatter the seeds over the pineapple and sweeten, if desired, with honey and/or a sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar.

Optional is the juice of half a lime or a lemon or an orange.

Avocado, baby beetroot and haloumi salad with pomegranates

(As a side salad this will feed four people)

Ingredients

150 g baby beetroot, boiled and skins removed

1 medium avocado, peeled

100 g haloumi

Seeds of one pomegranate

Method:

Cut your beetroot into wedges or slices.

Halve the avocado and then cut each half into thick slices.

Dice the haloumi.

To plate, scatter the beetroot on a medium-sized flat salad plate, top with the avo and then scatter around the haloumi, diced into 2cm chunks. Finally top with the pomegranate seeds.

Dress with a vinaigrette or make a creamy yoghurt, honey and mustard dressing, with a cup of yoghurt; 2 tsps honey and 1 tsp mustard; a glug of olive oil and the juice of half a lemon or 1 tbs cider vinegar. Whisk vigourously. Drizzle over.

This salad is great with fish on the grill.