The pomegranate is the fruit of tree or shrub native to Iran and other parts of the Middle East and Asia and is usually harvested between March and May in the southern hemisphere. It’s also now grown in many parts of the US and in Europe. However there is none better than the Iranian pomegranate which is large and juicy compared to those grown elsewhere. There are over 750 varieties in Iran alone and they come in many different sizes and colours with ‘black’ pomegranates being the most expensive.
In latter years the pomegranate has become renown for its health giving properties and is now known as a ‘super fruit’ in the west. Pomegranate juice provides around 16% of our daily required vitamin C intake, is high in vitamin B and potassium and eating the arils or seeds of the pomegranate will provide you with a good source of fibre. The ruby jewel is also thought to be effective in warding off heart disease. Here is a link to a video about some of the many health benefits attributed to the pomegranate.
Pomegranates are at the best when ripe. A good pomegranate will be heavy with red or dark pink arils and juice and have less pith ( the white fleshy part). It’s easy to tell if a pomegranate is ripe through it’s colour which should be red, and it’s feel. Ripe pomegranates are heavy and soft to touch but not too soft. Iranians prefer sweet, thin skinned pomegranates and many will add a little salt and/or pepper to the seeds or arils. Even though it sounds quite weird, it’s actually so delicious you will never want to eat them without again.
There are many ways to open and eat a pomegranate and everyone has their preferred methods. Some like to bite into it and suck the juice out and others prefer to cut it open and scoop out the arils. Some emerse them in water to avoid mess and prevent staining of clothes.
If you happen to come across a good batch of pomegranates buy several. You can open them and store the arils in the fridge for several days.
Pomegranate juice is delicious and refreshing and can be used in a variety of ways from cocktails to syrup or robe anar . The pomegranate syrup or concenrate is essential in a particular recipes Khoreshte feseenjun and Aash e Anar. The arils can be used in numerous ways too: sprinkle on salads, add to fruit salads, and many other deserts. The arils are also dried and ground and used in a variety of ways too. This is called Anar dana and in this powdered form it can be added to soups, khoresht and cookies.
Ma’ast o Musir is to die for. A perfect tangy dip to use as a starter or to compliment kebab. Ma’ast o Musir is simply a combination of creamy ma’ast or natural yoghurt with piazche or shallots. This is a dish you will want to use over and over again.
- Thick creamy ma’ast or natural yoghurt
- Shallots. Fresh shallots have a strong flavour so use sparingly. You can use dried shallots available from any Iranian grocery store. Simply pre- soak them before using. Which ever you use, chop finely.
- A dash of ab limu or lime juice
- a pinch of salt
Simply combine all the ingredients and leave in the fridge before serving. Decorate with a sprig of fresh mint.