Every year at just this time,
In cold and dark December,
Families around the world
All gather to remember,
With presents and with parties,
With feasting and with fun,
Customs and traditions
for people old and young.
- Helen H. Moore
Yes it is cold and it is dark, however, we will soon be with family and friends having fun, festive times. With the approach of the shortest day, 21.12.12 the birds have less time to feed and longer nights to roost – they will come eagerly to your garden for food so please put plenty out for them. You may get to see mistletoe in the trees, bright green leaves with white berries – sticky food for thrushes.
Let’s not forget our good friend the red-breasted robin – everywhere I have been gardening lately there has been a robin observing me close by. They will follow anyone who is digging the soil in hopes of easy pickings. Robins are rarely seen or heard during mid-summer when they are molting and tend to be a little retiring. They have a melodious, warbling song, which in the winter sounds more wistful, some say even mournful but around Christmas time their song becomes a lot stronger and more passionate.
I enjoy plotting and planning for Christmas and always have a long list of recipes that I want to try and jobs that I what to achieve before the event. The shops have been enticing us since the end of September with all their goodies but the time always runs out however organised you are.
It is fun to buy different food and drink at this time of year and a lot more exotic tropical fruits appear on the shelves. One you will see now is the pomegranate. Pomegranates are a fruit with many seeds about the size of a large orange, with a tough skin that is various shades of red. The many seeds are edible and surrounded by a tangy, pinky-red, jelly-like pulp. They are unique fruits and they have no close relatives.
The pomegranate (Punica granatum) is a fruit-bearing deciduous shrub which grows between five and eight meters tall. I have started small plants from the seeds myself and I managed to grow then for three years until I lost them after a extremely cold winter. They are native to western Asia and are now grown widely in Mediterranean countries, China and Japan.
From its earliest days, the pomegranate has been associated with fertility and bounty. The deep red of the fruit and the large number of seeds gives it an aura of sensual mystery. This mystery was taken up by cultures all over the world; whether it is Greek mythology, ancient Egyptian beliefs, or Hebrew tradition, the pomegranate is a strong tie between birth, life, death and resurrection. Throughout history, the pomegranate has had a variety of uses beside a food product – in medicine, as a religious icon and even in the treatment of fabrics and leather.
Pomegranates are on the list of super-fruit. Brimming with healthy antioxidants, they are moderate in calories, slightly more than that of apples and contain no cholesterol or saturated fats. They are a rich source of soluble and insoluble dietary fibre, a good source of vitamin C and many vital B vitamins and minerals like calcium, copper, potassium and manganese. The entire seed is eaten raw, though the watery, tasty aril (seed casing) is the most desired part. The rich juice can be sweet or sour, the sour notes coming from the acidic tannins contained in the aril juice. The juice can be used in soups, jellies, sorbets, sauces as well as to flavour cakes.
Concentrated juice, about 250% stronger, is a popular item in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean recipes providing a unique flavour and intense sweet taste. The arils make an attractive garnish when sprinkled on salads.
Juicing is a bit of a task but worth it, but dress accordingly as the juice does stain.
Trim the crown of the pomegranate with a sharp paring knife. Gently cut the outside skin around the fruit, trying not to touch the seeds, creating 6 wedges. Gently open the fruit with your thumbs and scoop out the seeds.
Remove and discard the white membrane.
In a blender whizz the seeds of 5 pomegranates with ½ a cup of water. Blend until smooth and strain the liquid through a sieve. You can collect the pulp and put it into some cheesecloth and drain even more liquid out. Strain this juice again through a sieve and away you go.
You can make an even more exciting festive drink with this juice by adding an equal quantity of cranberry juice with a generous splash of fresh lemon and lime juice, sparkling water and shredded mint leaves. Serve over ice and enjoy.
Did you know:
It is said that King Henry VIII of England planted the first pomegranate tree in
Grenada, an island nation off the coast of South America, was named after the Spanish and French term for ‘Pomegranate’.
The pomegranate also gave its name to the Hand grenade from its shape and size.
The Ancient Egyptians were buried with pomegranates.