pomegranate-whole & knife

Like figs, pomegranates are the symbol of fertility. Legend has it that Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, the goddess of fruit and fertility, was carried off to the underworld by Pluto. To force Persephones’s release, Demeter prevented plants from bearing fruit thus creating winter which did not exist previously. Persephone also did her bit by going on a hunger strike although she eventually succumbed and ate a pomegranate which she spat out except for 6 seeds. After which Demeter struck a deal with Pluto whereby she agreed that he would keep her daughter for 6 months of the year, one month for each seed, and she would have her for the remaining 6 months. And this is how summer and winter were created with pomegranates starting to ripen towards the end of summer.

They have just started appearing in the Lebanese shops here and very soon, they will be ripening on Mary Taylor Simeti’s trees in Sicily. ย We were exchanging emails the other day when she asked what would be the best way to take the seeds out. I said I would post it as I would be eating a lot of pomegranates from now until the end of the season.ย So, here is what I do which is also what most people in the Middle East do. It is a slow process but it produces totally unblemished seeds without any bits of the bitter pith which spoils the sweet taste of the pomegranate seeds.

Using a sharp knife, cut and discard the top skin off the pomegranate, also the bottom. Then taking the pith line as a marker, cut into the skin to create wedges as if you were cutting to peel an orange. If the middle bit of the pith is very thick, insert the tip of your knife in between it and the seeds and flick it out. Then gently break the pomegranate in half.

pomegranates-beginning of peeling copy

pomegranates-slicng skin & breaking in half

Break the halves into wedges and peel each, both the thick outer skin and the thin one covering the seeds before carefully prising the seeds off the pith by pushing them against the direction they are attached to the pith. If you do this slowly and gently, you will not get any juice on your fingers.

pomegranates-wedges & seeds off

pomegranates-seeds off & pith copy

This will take some time but you will end up with a beautiful, crisp bowl ofย jewel-like pomegranate seeds. The one I peeled here has very pale lustrous seeds that are sweet and juicy although not yet at their very best. I expect it will be in another couple of weeks before I can buy perfect ones. Still, it was delicious. I love mixing the seeds with soaked pine nuts — soaking nuts (preferably overnight to allow them enough time to rehydrate) makes them taste as if they are fresh. I will have to try the next batch with wet walnuts which are also in season!

pomegranates-seeds & peel copy

pomegranates & soaked pine nuts-collage

I have tried taking the shorter route of cutting the pomegranate in half and tapping on the skin with a knife to let the seeds drop but I don’t like doing it this way. The seeds are fragile and some of them will bruise. It is also messier with juice spurting out. My slow method is neat, and it also has a serene, meditative quality to it which I like. Anyhow, whichever way you decide to take the seeds out, you will be in for a treat as long as you have bought the right kind of pomegranates. There is a sour or to be more accurate, a sweet-sour pomegranate called leffan in Arabic which is the one used for pomegranate syrup and to garnish baba ghannuge and other dishes.

Here is a wonderful display of the sour kind which I came across in a great street market in Aleppo, Syria.

17-pomegranates-cracked open copy

Sadly, I will not be there this pomegranate season, not as long the lion keeps savaging his people!

There is 16 comments on this post

  • Interesting that you have titled this post ma, because I read it as “mother” and pomegranates are and always will be associated with both my mum and my grandmother, for me. When mum was a child, she tells us, and was feeling poorly, one of the treats her mother would prepare for her was freshly squeezed pomegranate juice, served warm. I also have vague memories of a traditional Indian fairytale about a princess and pomegranates, though really must ask mum to tell it to me once again. And now, even though I’m 40 in a few weeks, when mum wants to spoil my sister and I, and they are in season, she will buy and peel and carefully separate out all the seeds of a ruby red pomegranate and give them to us ready to eat, such a treat.


  • how weird. i hope my blog is not being hacked cos the title was not ma. i corrected it. how nice of your mom to spend the time doing this. my mother did the same but not as a treat but just as part of our fruit intake ๐Ÿ™‚ will be curious to know about the fairy tale.

  • i always take the seeds out in a bowl of water, but from now on i will first slice them like an orange. thank you for this ! i have to admit, i have never seen a white pomegranate before. i am used to a vibrant red, with pink or purple hues. do the seeds taste very different ?

  • no, not really. just as juicy and sweet and in a way prettier because of the translucency. it’s a shame to do it in a bowl of water as i am sure you dilute some of the flavour, and possibly nutrients ๐Ÿ™‚

  • excellent point. and i won’t do it in water from now on, don’t need to. i’ve got your method, definitely better. thanks again anissa !

  • I split them in half and use the back of a wooden spoon to get the seeds out. I haven’t had a bruising problem using that method.

    Jewish tradition teaches that the pomegranate is a symbol for righteousness, because it is said to have 613 seeds which corresponds with the 613 mitzvot or commandments of the Torah. Some Jewish scholars believe that it was the pomegranate, not the apple, that was the forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden.

  • I found this totally fascinating. I’ve always been frustrated by it!

  • michelle, perhaps you are more adept at beating a pomegranate than i am ๐Ÿ™‚ no seriously, i prefer my method. just love the feel of the seeds detaching from the pith and falling into my hand or the bowl.

  • glad you enjoyed it nathalie. now you will only be frustrated by the time it takes ๐Ÿ™‚ but the reward at the end is well worth it.

  • lovely article! will have to try the snack with the pine nuts!! in my family a
    favorite refreshing summer treat is a big bowl of ruby red pomegranate seeds in rosewater that we chill and serve ๐Ÿ™‚

  • i keep forgetting about the rose water. great addition. i add orange blossom water to the juice which i learned in morocco ๐Ÿ™‚

  • love the juice and the syrup for cooking and the decorative effect for garnish..but the woody bits in the seeds themselves I find bothersome? does anyone else feel that way? after getting the juice i spit them out…not the most attractive site!..I think the persian way of squeezing and sucking through hole in an otherwise intact pomegrante as u go along is great..but makes for tired jar….reminds me of a rose..so beautiful but so many thorns

  • sorry meant tired jaw..do the woody bits bother you at all anissa?

  • no, not really. i like to crunch on them. they only bother me when the pomegranate is not ripe enough and as a result there is more seed than flesh ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Ooh I wonder what happened to the title, glad it’s sorted!
    I shall ask my mum for the fairy tale, I saw her yesterday but forgot!!!

  • This method is not unique to you. It is exactly how I and other relations would open, deseed and consume a pomegranate.

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