How to peel a pomegranate (kindly, gently)

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The pomegranate memory is this: the kitchen counter, Wagon Wheel Lane, where I am seated snugly next to the sink. Uncle Joe is visiting from California, Joe Abood, my Jiddo’s brother. We loved Uncle Joe and though I could not have been more than 6 years old, I remember the lines of his face, and his voice. Perhaps he lifted me up onto the counter so that I could watch him at work with the bright pink globes he’d brought with him from California. Perhaps my mother said, keep her close to the sink so we don’t get pomegranate juice all over the kitchen. Yes, probably.

Uncle Joe’s hands were of the sort a child trusts, old knobby hands that contain knowledge, memory, and other secrets. Deep in the white porcelain sink, he pulled apart the radiant pink pomegranate, which then, 40 years ago, was a real wonder, a mystery, not something any of us picked up at Meijer whenever we wanted. Uncle Joe pulled them from the trees in his own yard, and put them in his suitcase to bring to Michigan, a gift. Because the Lebanese, we most of the time have fruit on our minds.

He worked the well-traveled pomegranate to remove the white membrane and reveal the rubies underneath. Eat, he said. Did Uncle Joe speak much English? I’m not sure. I don’t recall much talking, just a language of hands and fruit and flavor. I followed his lead to see that he didn’t spit out the crunchy seeds, that those were as good for the taking as the tart juice that surrounded them.

So now, when I see the pomegranates being handled with such harshness, cut in half and whacked with a wooden spoon until the little gems fall, stunned, into a bowl? I can’t take it. Pomegranates deserve better. Uncle Joe deserves better.

Like so:

Core the flower end of the pomegranate at an angle all the way around it, and pull out the plug.

Cut the other end, the stem end, flat across the bottom.

Score the pomegranate along the subtle ridges of each lobe.

Gently pull apart the pomegranate, pulling one lobe away from the fruit. Peel away the white membrane to reveal the plump red seeds beneath. Use your fingers to gently loosen the seeds.

Do this same kind method with the rest of the grateful pomegranate.

Store the precious seeds in the refrigerator in a paper towel-lined container, with another paper towel on top of them, where they will stay nice for you for a couple of weeks.

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  1. trish carlisle says:

    I love the story about your uncle. The hands sounded beautiful and familiar. I traveled from Maine to California for Christmas when I was a senior in high-school. Grandma have lemon apricot and pomegranate trees in her small El Segundo yard. I tasted my first pomegranate during my visit. Santa puts one in my stocking every year. Thank you for stirring up good memories.

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      A pomegranate in your stocking…now that’s better than gold! Thanks for sharing, Trish.

  2. Roger Toomey says:

    Growing up in western Nebraska a pomegranate was a real treat only available when someone traveled hundreds of miles to a large city. They were never “seeded”. They would be pulled apart into four pieces, one for each member of the family. Then we would set and watch TV and pick out one seed at a time and snack the evening away. Even today I don’t “seed” them. I take a section and eat it slowly. If I don’t want a whole I put the remainder in the refrigerator still in the skin. There they wait (never for long) until I break off another hunk to be savored.

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      So nice Roger!

  3. Sean Rami Abass says:

    Hi Maureen,
    I enjoyed your story and was forced to try and remember my father sharing pomegranates with my brother Brook and my sister Nadia. I don’t remember my oldest brother Terry being around for the experience. My dad used his pestle and mortar to split open the fruit. Then he banged the pestle on the rind to cause some seeds to fall out.Then taught us to eat the seeds and then Spit them out! I remember my hands seem to have got stained. I thought I would share. I think I like your idea more. I will try it!
    Sean Abass

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      What a great memory Sean (and you all have such beautiful names)! Thanks for sharing — such a pleasure —

  4. E.B. says:

    Loved this post, such lovely memories and great instructions. I agree, pomegranates should be handled gently, those instructions to whack them with a spoon make me feel sorry for the poor fruit! What would Demeter and Persephone say?

  5. tammy says:

    MO!!!! i LOVE pomegranates ….. and i have always treated them with the love & respect due to them. i was born in SoCal & we always had fresh fruit, limes, lemons, oranges, grapefruit, peaches, apricots, kumquats, & yes pomegranates ! the most magical fruit of all. that was the ONLY fruit that as a kid i didn’t eat sitting in a tree 😉

  6. Diane Nassir (my maternal grandmother was an Abood (Jamileh) from Ammun Leb. says:

    Lovely memories-I grew up in LA, our next door neighbors had a huge, prolific pomegranate tree several decades old, and we always had our fill–always highly ritualized (had to take them outside and eat them on the patio while wrapped in a huge apron to protect our clothes–but fingers were stained for days–the joy of it all!!!!

  7. TasteofBeirut says:

    enjoy reading about your uncle. warm and sensitive memories are the best. oh and there is the pomegranates of course. cant remember how my téta cut them open but she did eat a few every afternoon.

  8. Josephine says:

    I am so very very very thankful that you put up this post, with the warm mention of your Uncle Joe, and especially with the written instructions on how to show respect for the poor pomegranate ! I cannot for the life of me remember where I saw a video, a few months ago, on the internet of someone cutting a pomegranate exactly the same way you suggest. Whereas I have come across about 10 videos showing the whacking of the poor pomegranate (with a wooden spoon or other implement). I saw Nigella doing it for the first time in one of her early TV series. I wanted to “counteract” the viciousness of the whacking approach … and now I can. I have put your link up on my facebook page. Phew. And thank you!

  9. Janet Kalush Moore says:

    Just a thought Maureen. If you do all of the above, except peel the pomegranate under water, you avoid splatter stains and the membrane comes off easier. I usually fill a clean sink with water.
    Just bought 3 more pomegranate’s…the season is almost over.