Pomegranate

I wrote about cranberries in December given their prevalence during the holiday feasting season. Another fruit that appears in supermarkets at this time of the year is pomegranate. Unlike cranberry, pomegranate does not grow in our region; it is native to Iran and India and is largely cultivated throughout Asia, Africa, the US and the Mediterranean. 

Have you ever wondered why it is featured so prominently at this time of year? It is a popular fruit among many cultures, widely cultivated and currently in season.  It is an ancient and celebrated tree; the fruit is included in spiritual/religious ceremonies in many cultures. 

I was recently chatting with a woman from Iran, Nozhat, who lives and works in Halifax as an acupuncturist; she shared that pomegranate is greatly celebrated in her native land, it is among the fruits included in their winter solstice celebrations.The following is her description of it: First of all, there are two types of pomegranate in Iran, sweet and sour, the sour is wild and you can find it in the woods of the northern part of the country. The sweet pomegranate is the main one used for the winter solstice celebration. The juice is used in many traditional stews. The paste/ molasses is the main ingredient in a side dish made with olive oil, chicken stuffing and special stews. Pomegranate soup is also very popular in winter, especially for winter solstice night. The seeds are a beautiful decoration for many kinds of salads, stews, cooked rice and other dishes.

She also shared some of the medicinal uses: antipyretic for fever, anti inflammatory, fungal infection, boosting immunity, anti cancer: especially recommended for men to prevent prostate cancer, treating worm parasite, the skin is used to treat diarrhea, high blood pressure (especially the sweet pomegranate juice), improves cardiovascular function. Different preparations are available in herbal shops.

Overall, when it is the season of this fruit, it is highly recommended to use it. In the Persian cuisine the pomegranate products are mostly used to balance the taste and temperature of the ingredients. 

Nozhat Momtaz works at Coral Shared-Care Health Center, for acupuncture appointments you can call (902) 420-0033

I am most familiar with the Ayurvedic use of pomegranate; the white inner rind is highly astringent, used to treat diarrhea, sore throat and fever. Try chewing on a piece of the rind to experience the drying sensation of astringency in the mouth, it would be helpful for mouth sores. The seeds are demulcent, used to sooth dryness and irritation in the GIT. 

The part we most often seek is the red, juicy seed lining, called the sarcotesta. The juice is now widely popular, considered a “superfood” due to its high anti-oxidant content. A highlight of my travels in India 20 years ago was fresh pressed pomegranate juice for 0.25 cents a glass.

Most grocery stores seem to be selling pomegranates at half price right now, so stock up and enjoy this ancient medicinal fruit.  My favorite dish is Fesenjan – Persian Pomegranate Chicken stew with walnuts. Pomegranate molasses can be purchased at the Mid East Food Centre in Halifax, I use it as a base for sauces and on porridge. 

 

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