Sunday, 23 December 2012

That bloody fruit

From October to December, the fruit and veg departments of supermarkets across Europe will have pomegranates on sale. A superbly delicious fruit, sweet and tart, and (if you buy a large, red-skinned one), incredibly juicy. Not a fruit common in households in England or Poland, however. And I can see why. The fruit, though rich in antioxidants and considered to be useful in lowering blood pressure, fighting viral infections etc, breaks two Western taboos. Eating with your hands, and spitting at the table. And the juice is the colour of blood and spurts all over the place, and stains... (try getting it off matt white paint on a kitchen wall!)

Eddie was watching me tucking in with relish to the deep red fruit, but disdained my way of eating it. His attempts to eat in a more civilised manner, with a spoon, from a plate, made him look like he'd just finished a particularly busy shift in a slaughterhouse. And wearing a shirt that had been just washed and ironed too.

Don't wish us smacznego, wish us czystego!
Soon, three plates were filled with the skin and spat-out pips of the single fruit, while my hands required two washes to remove all traces of the juice, while the table looked like I had just finished eviscerating a very large mammal upon it.

I love carefully removing the pith from the fruit, revealing glistening red clusters of ripe, juicy seed casings, or arils. Sinking one's teeth into such a cluster is deeply satisfying!

I've bought bottled pomegranate juice at Auchan before, indeed, it's becoming a regular fixture on the shelves at upmarket supermarkets such as Alma, in organic or regular varieties. At around 16zł a 750ml bottle, it's not cheap, but it's more convenient to ingest than the fruit, which requires much cleaning-up afterwards. And I'm not convinced that bottled pomegranate juice maintains the same health-giving properties of the whole fruit once its been subject to processing. The long shelf-life suggests pasteurisation, and no doubt this reduces the efficacy of the juice's active ingredients.

Pomegranates were not available in my West London grey-jumper'd childhood. The first time I heard of them was in my third year in junior school at Oaklands Road primary, when we did Greek myths and legends and we acted out the one about Persephone and her mother Demeter and Hades. The fruit made its way into British shops around the time the UK joined the European common market; I remember being introduced to it by Michael Stanley from my class at Gunnersbury Grammar school, whose mum was Portuguese. We bought two pomegranates at the greengrocer's on Northfields Avenue and left a trail of pips all the way up towards the Odeon.

Two months ago, the Economist, my window on the world, has launched a new blog/column, named Pomegranate, after "the fruit-bearing shrub that grows throughout the region". Tucking into a pomegranate, I ponder upon the cultural differences between the Middle East and northern Europe and to what extent they can be ascribed to the widespread consumption of a fruit that leaves a bloody mess in its aftermath...

FOLLOW-UP: 3 January 2013. I tried squeezing juice out of the pomegranate on an electric citrus squeezer. Not bad! May be useful to pass the resulting fluid through a strainer before drinking.

This time two years ago:
Yuletide break

This time three years ago:
Washing the snow away (temperature rises by 14C in 12 hours)


Unknown said...

Estetik Confounded by the various news reports about the aesthetic
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Anonymous said...

I bought a pomegranate in honour of my father yesterday. He would always eat them during the Christmas season....a holdover from his time spent in the Middle East during WWII