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Pomegranates (Split from Mutton/lamb; Goat/kid thread

Where do you get the idea that pomegranates were "virtually unknown in the U.S. ten years ago"? Pomegranates have been widely available -- at least in California -- for as long as I can remember (over 40 years). What's trendy is pomegranate juice ... probably because it's this year's (or maybe last year's, because Goji seems to be coming on strong) "it's high in antioxidants so lets make whole product lines out of it and promote them like crazy" fruit, following path blazed by cranberries, blueberries, etc.

Heck, pomegranates are in Greek mythology, which firmly roots them in Western culture for thousands of years.

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  1. Agreed! I had pomeganates regularly when I was a kid 25+ years ago. (in Massachusetts) POM pomegranate juice hit the market 2 or 3 years ago with a marketing campaign that it was good for you... and suddenly restaurants and bars have special Pomegranate martinis, Pomaritas, Pom-mojitos, and other such mixed drinks.

    Also, we eat goat several times a month in my household. My husband introduced it into my diet. We prepare roasted goat legs much the way we would make a leg of lamb... and also goat curries.

    1. Ruth.... I helped start up that trendy pomegranate juice company. The parent company, which I also worked for, has about 80% of the pomegranate acreage in the country... and they just started planting pomegranates in the early 90's.

      Sales of pomegranate & pomegranate related products have grown astronomically since then. I do not exaggerate when I say that the sales reps had to bring pomegranates with them... because very few Produce Managers actually knew what they were.

      8 Replies
      1. re: Eat_Nopal

        Well, as I said, I know they have been available where I live (SF Bay Area) as long as I can remember, although they used to be more seasonal than they are now. Perhaps when you said they were "virtually unknown in the US" you meant parts of the US outside of California and other major urban areas.

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          I meant that according to our own market research, even in California less than 1% population knew what a pomegranate was. You should have witnessed our first few focus groups :)

          1. re: Eat_Nopal

            I'm not sure that "people hadn't heard of them" is semantically the same as "they were unheard of" -- the fact is that pomegranates were readily available in stores; distributors distributed them and customers bought them, otherwise, they wouldn't have been in stores. If you wanted to buy a pomegranate, you could do so, easily, at least in season.

            The fact that 99 percent of people are ignorant (not only have they never seen a pomagranate but never read basic Greek mythology) is not really news to me.

            1. re: Eat_Nopal

              Everyone I knew in the central Valley of California in the 50s and 60s knew about pomegranites. It was the first fruit I ever planted, right in front of the rabbit hutches. It produced for years. And there was always high demand for the fruit.

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                I am not saying there wasn't any pomegranates... honestly pomegranates in Alta California date back to the 1700's when the first expeditions were launched from Baja California where they had taken root early in the century.

                All I am saying is that production of Pomegranates was absolutely minisicule until Roll International got into the game (having bought lands with trees from an Armenian farmer)... the owners were about to get them hacked until they heard about some medical research going on in Israel that is when they decided to keep them & expand.

                I am not saying they were unheard of...just virtually unheard of (to the vast majority of people in this country).

                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                  Gotta agree. I can date a particular meal I was preparing in September
                  2000. I needed some pomegranate molasses. I live in in San Francisco,
                  which is not exactly the far provinces when it comes to finding
                  semi-nonstandard ingredients. I had a huge hassle tracking some
                  down (evenually found in an arabic grocery store in Oakland).
                  These days, every little corner store has some on their shelves.

                  There's definitely been a renaissance. Sure we all knew what they
                  were. And you could find a sad-looking one or two in the Safeway
                  produce section. But something changed.

                  Further evidence of the rooting of pomegranites in western culture:
                  The city of Granada in Spain was named for the fruit, which the
                  Moors found growing there.

              2. re: Eat_Nopal

                As a kid in the 60's in northern NY state pomegranates were a treat I looked forward to every winter. Your focus group was highly under educated.

            2. re: Eat_Nopal

              I grew up in Wyoming. In the early 50's pomegrantes were available in the fall.

            3. i've been eating them on the west coast since the
              70's but we always called them "Chinese Apples"

              3 Replies
              1. re: howund09

                I first ate a pomegranate in the winter of 1968, on the subway in NYC at about midnight. My friend and I were hurtling toward Brooklyn, alone in the train car, when a group of three or four young punk kids--greased-up hair, tight pegged jeans, black leather jackets, high black boots with buckles, very menacing looking guys--got in the car with us. One of them pulled a pomegranate out of his jacket and cracked it open. I was dying of curiosity and whispered to my friend, "I'm going to ask him what that is."

                My friend was aghast. "Don't say one word to that gang-banger!" he hissed back at me.

                "I will," said I, and did: "What's that thing you're eating?"

                The kid snarled, "It's a Chinese apple. What's it to you?"

                "Nothing, I just wondered. Can I taste it?" He handed me a little section. Heaven! "Where'd you get it? I want one!"

                "I got two, I'll sell you one for a dollar."

                One of his companions gouged him with an elbow. "You didn't buy it, you stole it! GIVE it to the lady!"

                He reached in his jacket, hauled out the second one, and handed it over.

                So much for the gangland gourmet.

                1. re: cristina

                  Beautiful, beautiful story, cristina! Did you go out with the guy?

                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    Oh my god, no! What a riot...that kid was about 15--I was a good 15 years older than he.

              2. I'm 48-years-old, and I ate pomegranates as a kid growing up in Montreal. They were most readily available in late summer/early fall, imported just in time for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Pomegranates are eaten traditionally during the Jewish High Holidays.

                Here's why (from the hashama.org website):


                One takes a piece of this fruit (watch out - pomegranate juice stains in the worst way!) and says, "May it be Your will that our merits be numerous as (the seeds of) the pomegranate."

                What's the deal? There are 613 commandments in the Torah for a Jew to fulfill. An individual pomegranate supposedly has 613 seeds. (Try counting them.... I did once, and though we lost exact count, there were more than 600 and less and 625 seeds - so it was awfully close!) By eating the pomegranate, we figuratively show our desire and hope to fulfill all 613 commandments, and by doing so, we will be able to accrue a nice amount of merit."

                1. We had pomegranates in NJ in the early 60's, we also called them 'Chineses Apples'.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jackrugby

                    Huh, interesting. We ate what we called Chinese Apples when I was a child - but they were actually Nashi Pears.

                    We also ate pomegranates around Christmas, but they were definitely called pomegranates.

                  2. A neighbor used to give out pomegranates from her tree as Halloween treats every year. It was something I always looked forward to.


                    1. Definitely bad odd focus groups. Pomegranates were a treat for us as kids as well, even for the "less sophisticated" Austin-area kids that we were in the early 70's. (I have memories of having them almost every Christmas as well, in TX, DC, FL, CT and NY.) They were a treat, but commonly available - my mother never shopped anywhere but your average Albertsons or Safeway type grocery store.

                      1. Chowhounds are absolutely representative of the population at large. Nevermind the statistics & market research.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                          Certainly as a child, I wasn't a Chowhound. I lived in a town of 275 people with only one restaurant, and was raised by a mother who didn't really like to cook, and a father who believed that meat and potatoes were the only requirements of any meal. I always assume that if I had it as a child, everyone did.

                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                            If your company wants to somehow take credit for the very existence of pomegranates, so be it. But if Safeway carries it, how "unheard of" can it be?

                          2. ok, i guess i'm the rube. we were city-folks, but my family never bought or served them, so i was well into adulthood before i'd eaten one. yes, i'd read mythology so knew about persephone and her fruit. i'd seen them in paintings too. actually eating one was something else.

                            1. Maybe it would have been better to say that pomegranates were uncommon, exotic and highly seasonal until quite recently. those are all true statements. Certainly they were not on our radar screen as whitebread midwesteners in central Ohio in the late 60s. They could have come into the grocery stores as a specialty item but my parents didnt know from ...and wouldnt have bought an expensive exotic, unknown fruit anyway.

                              After I came to NY and set up on my own they definitely crept into my consciousness but certainly as a seasonal specialty item, maybe from Chinatown or one of the new Korean markets springing up in the 70s. Typically weve bought 1 or two a year and enjoyed them ritualistically - they werent reliable enough to be a regular food item except around thanksgiving until just a few years ago.

                              I might speculate that different ethnic backgrounds or urban vs. heartland differences could account for different levels of awareness of this fruit. I also think that people in California might have been aware sooner.

                              Its interesting that this year I bought a six pack at Costco - my West Indian church friends fell all overthem and I went home with none - apparently they grew them in backjards in Trinidad and Jamaica (little known fact)!

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: jen kalb

                                Bingo.... that is exactly it. Notice how no one has wanted to go on the record stating their opinion on produce that I consider currently virtually unheard of in the states name Verdologas, Quelites, Huazontle, Huitlacoche.

                                As a kid I ate Pomegranates all the time... a seasonal specialty carried in almost all the Mexican markets in L.A. But, in the San Fernando Valley sub-urbs none of the high school kids knew what they were when I tried to explain what a Chile en Nogada was.

                                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                  Well, if 40 years from now someone says that "huitlacoche" was "unheard of" in the US until ten years prior to that, I'll disagree with him, too.

                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                    It I may, I think Eat Nopal means unheard of in mass market terms, not literally. Its obviously a bit of an exaggeration. Ive not heard of the others (are "quilites" the same as quenapas?)and have never to my knowledge seen huitlacoche in a store here in NY. Maybe if I trolled the fancy-food purveyors I would find it occasionally at an elevated price but I dont do that currently.

                                    1. re: jen kalb

                                      Thanks Jen... that is exactly what I meant by virtually unheard of... at least 80 percent of the population (i.e. the masses) had not eaten or seen a pomegranate. Heck, when I first met my wive's distant relatives in North Carolina, Nebraska & Sacramento most of them THEM didn't know anything about pomegranates as late as 2003 when I still worked for POM!

                                      Quelites are a green commonly consumed in Mexico. They are most commonly eaten in central & southern Mexico... but they aren't easily found in the big cities or mainstream markets & restaurants.

                                      There are actually numerous distinct species sold as Quelites but the most common one is know as Lamb's Quarters in english. Recently, a tender "spring" form of Quelites has been sold packaged in Trader Joe's under the Mache or Lamb's Lettuce name.

                                      I would say.. sure you can find a variety of quelites at Trader Joe's but what percentage of their consumers let alone society purchases them, and knows what they are?

                                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                        And it's diingenous to ask/presume that people reading this thread haven't heard of quelites, when many of them no doubt have heard of them - but not by their Spanish name. I'd never heard of quelites until reading your insistent comments trying to compare Mexican produce to pomegranates, but mache and lamb's quarters? Known them for a long time.

                                        The fact that the owners of POM have 99% of the pomegranate groves in the US is not surprising, but it also doesn't prove much. I'm assuming they've not just acquired, but planted as well, to cover their production needs. Of course POM needs massive quantities of the fruit to produce its product, which it heavily advertises and which has had plenty of coverage in newspaper food sections and food magazines since it went on the market (no doubt in large part due to press releases and samples, same as most new products that get coverage). That's a different story from produce farmers of a seasonal crop of a "special" (i.e., not an everyday purchase, even in season, at whatever price point) fruit.

                                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                          Alright CM.... are mache & lambs quarters well known, yes or no?

                                          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                            With regards to POM... they created the juice product as a way to sell excess pomegranates because the market for fresh pomegranates proved to be very small & short lived even with heavy promotions.

                                            In addition to the juice, they now have the Tea & the Arils (seeds in a box)... and are exploring pills & other ways to sell.

                                            However, the interesting thing is that the fruit is far more profitable than the juice or Arils. (The tea & the pills are a different story). If they could sell the pomegranates as whole fruit they would.

                                            As it stands, they can only sell 1.2 MM cases of fruit (24 to a box).... after all their heavy marketing AND a large portion of that is exports to Canada, Mexico, Japan, China & Europe... and it only represents 1/3 of their total production which numbers about 8,000 Acres.

                                          2. re: Eat_Nopal

                                            I've been able to find pomegranates here in the Boston area ever since I can remember (in season), but almost never have been served them in anyone's home and I'm pretty sure most of my neighbors have never eaten one, let alone bought one. The people I know who do are clustered by background/ethnicity (exposure to Middle Eastern food, mainly) or are adventurous eaters. Every time somebody brings a pomegranate prep to a party (not often!) there's a chorus of "what's that" and "I always wondered what they tasted like." The fruits are getting more popular but not very fast--the juice is popular partly because it's considered exotic, I think. Remember we're chowhounds, we're the weirdos who notice and seek out the unusual.

                                            1. re: Aromatherapy

                                              "Remember we're chowhounds, we're the weirdos who notice and seek out the unusual."

                                              Exactly... couldn't agree more.

                                  2. Huh? I thought this thread was about pomegranates. What's this about verdolagas, quelites, huazontle, and huitlacoche?

                                    If you want to talk about those vegetable treats, fine with me. I'll go on record that I've lived in Mexico for more than a quarter century and didn't know about any of those till about 15 years ago. Here in MEXICO, mind you.

                                    1. We had pomegranates growing in our back yard in Southern California (Long Beach) when I was a kid (early 1950's). They weren't rare in other yards either. We kids loved to break them open and eat the wonderful insides.

                                      1. Again, addressing the claim that the second derivitive of per-capita pomegranate
                                        consumption over time is positive, rather than the I-heard-about-them-as-a-child side
                                        of the discussion ...

                                        Here's an LA Business Journal article from 2005 which makes the claim that a single
                                        company has been responsible for doubling the size of the US commercial pomegranate
                                        market. "They've single-handedly created the market for pomegranate juice in the United


                                        1. No one has mentioned the beauty of a grove of pomegranate trees in bloom! Having learned to love pomegranates and pomegranate molasses in the 70's in Iran, for a long time they were secret ingredients that amazed friends.