Often misspelled, but hard to mistake for another fruit—especially when cut open to reveal the juicy red treasure inside—the beautiful pomegranate is enjoying its seasonal bounty now through January. While many have hopped on the pomegranate juice bandwagon of recent years, most people hesitate to buy the whole fruit and soil their hands (clothes, kitchen walls, pets, etc.) with it in the seed-harvesting process. It can be fun, though, so don’t miss this year’s window to try the whole fruit in new ways.

Pomegranate fruit and its juice provide our bodies with strong health benefits. They

  • deliver antioxidants;
  • lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol;
  • promote blood flow; and
  • reduce the incidence of skin and breast cancer.

One pomegranate—at just 100 calories—packs a wallop of nutritional value:

  • just 25 grams of sugar
  • a great source of potassium
  • strong in vitamins B and C
  • excellent source of fiber

You can buy all sorts of prepared pomegranate products, from juice and seeds to vinegars, wines and molasses, but real kitchen adventurers will buy a whole fruit and take matters into their own hands. Beware: pomegranate juice is used for natural dyeing of nonsynthetic fabrics, if that gives you any clue to its staining power!

To harvest the seeds and juice from a whole fruit, slice off the crown and cut the fruit into segments. Submerge each segment underwater in a large bowl in your sink and gently pull out the seed clusters, separating them from the pith. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl while the pith usually floats, which makes separation easy. Strain the seeds in a colander and then enjoy. By working underwater, the opportunity for juice to squirt around your kitchen is thwarted, and the seed harvest becomes a pretty mess-free affair. Try it! At least you can say you did it once.

Eat sweet-citrusy pomegranate seeds by themselves as a crunchy, juicy snack; sprinkle them on top of cereals and salads; blend a handful into a smoothie; put them in a salsa and serve over fish—or try them in this month’s Recipe for Health!