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When refrigerated in a plastic bag, pomegranates will keep for weeks.

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Origins and Culture

The pomegranate, native to Persia, is one of the oldest fruits known. Originally thought to be native to China, pomegranates were actually brought to China about 100 B.C. by Han dynasty representative, Jang Qian, who also introduced coriander, walnuts, peas, cucumbers, alfalfa, grapes and caraway seeds to the Far East. Arab caravans based out of ancient Baghdad also spread this exotic fruit through the Middle East, India, and the Roman Empire.

As it traveled from one culture to another, something about the pomegranate's gem-like seeds and vaulted, almost Byzantine architecture tweaked the imagination of ritual and myth-makers wherever it went. Indian royalty began their elegant and esoteric banquets with pomegranate, grape, and jujube. The pomegranate appeared in Jewish custom, where tradition holds that a pomegranate has 613 seeds to represent the 613 commandments in the Torah. The pomegranate is mentioned six times in the Song of Solomon, and is depicted in the art of ancient Greece and Rome. In fact, the Romans imported their pomegranates from Africa, and Pliny the Elder gave specific instructions for storing them.

It was the Moors who brought the seedy fruit to Spain round 800 A.D. In fact, Granada was named for the pomegranate, which became their national emblem. The French named their hand-tossed explosive a grenade after the seed-scattering properties of the pomegranate fruit. And in 1791, special troops formed by the French military to wield these grenades were called grenadiers.

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Nutritional and Medicinal Properties

Though the ancients used pomegranate skin and bark for medicinal purposes, only the seeds are edible. The pomegranate provides a substantial amount of potassium and fibre. Most diets today contain high sodium and low potassium. This poorly balanced ratio tends to elevate blood pressure making pomegranate a great choice for those dealing with hypertension.

Pomegranates are high in dietary fibre. Increased dietary fibre (with good water consumption) helps your bowels stay healthy and regular by shortening transit time. Not only does increasing dietary fibre aid in healthy bowels, it also aids in decreasing cholesterol levels.

Although pomegranates are high in potassium and fibre, they are relatively high in sugar and would not be a good choice for diabetics or those wishing to reduce sugars in their diet.

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Basic Cooking Instructions

Once you get past the multitude of seeds, the pomegranates juice is tangy, sweet, rich and flavorful. This juice becomes the base for sauces and flavorings for drinks, savory dishes, and sweets, while the whole seeds are a simple delight eaten fresh or used as a colorful garnishing accent. Since pomegranate juice has an acidic, citrus flavor, try substituting it in citrus marinades, either whole or in part, for a flavor change.

To seed pomegranate, slice off the top and tail of the pomegranate. Score it as you would the peel of an orange. Submerge the pomegranate in bowl of cold water and peel away rind. Break into sections, and pull seeds from the pith with your fingers. Drain the seeds in a sieve and throw away the pith.

Be forewarned that the juice will stain not only your fingers but also your clothes, which is why it has been used as a natural dye by many cultures.

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