My Pomegranate Love

It’s absolutely freezing here in Athens today. The temperature at midday registered 0 degrees centigrade and with the ferocious north wind making our bedroom curtains quiver, we’ve been pretty cold even with the heat on most of the day.

Monday afternoon is when I usually visit the organic farmers’ market in our neighborhood. I never expected them to set up their stalls today but to get a breath of even fresher air, I ventured out of the flat and walked in their direction. To my surprise, practically all the vendors were present. And nobody was complaining. “We’re used to it,” said the pretty young woman who sells eggs, “but we won’t last the full three hours.”

“Never mind,” said the apple man with a grin, “the cold is good for you. Chases the germs away.”

I filled my bag with Pink Lady apples, tangerines, clementines and blood oranges, a snow-white cauliflower, and a few tiny Cretan bananas.

Buying the bananas reminded me of the good old days in the 70s, when bananas were contraband. In order to protect the virtually nonexistent Cretan production, the junta decided to forbid the import of the Central American variety.

So we had what we called The Yellow Market — Chiquita bananas smuggled into the country and sold by gypsies at traffic lights or off the back of pickups. It was a ridiculous situation but one that persisted for a few years even after democracy was restored.

Amazingly, though there’s no shortage now, bananas are still among the bizarre things sold at traffic lights by the latest generation of beggars. Along with flowers, Kleenex, sesame rolls, fishing rods, cigarette lighters, plastic toys, car dusters, chamois cloths and so forth. There are so many supplicants, sadly, that one cannot give to all, but I do find I reach for a coin when greeted with a smile instead of a whine.

But back to the market.

Although my bag was heavy, I made room for some pomegranates. The season is almost over, and I’ll be so sorry to see them go. In October and November, we were eating our own from our two trees in Andros. It was the first year they actually produced more than two or three each. And of course their ruby seeds tasted so much better than any money could buy.

But for the last two months, I buy them from the organic growers whose trees are in Ermioni, in the Peloponnese opposite Hydra. It’s the pomegranate capital of Greece.

I am no Persephone. No way I could stop with six seeds. They are just as more-ish as peanuts or potato chips. A bit healthier, luckily. I eat them by the spoonful, plain; sprinkle them over muesli (with slices of those Cretan bananas); throw them into green salads, along with toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds; add them to baked apples or quinces or fruit salad.

I also adore fresh pomegranate juice, which I first had in Istanbul in October 2010. And what about pomegranate molasses, a delicious substitute for vinegar. It’s a gooey substance that you have to force out of its plastic bottle but it’s a lot like balsamic essence. I dribble it on fava (yellow split pea) puree and use it in salad dressings. (You can find it in Middle Eastern specialty shops.)

Cleaning them is a chore, but the secret is to roll the pomegranate on a hard surface, pressing into it as you roll. This will loosen the seeds.  Slice off the two ends, then halve and quarter them and they’ll pop out without much effort. I wear rubber gloves when I do this for the lovely colored juice turns black under your finger nails and dyes them for days.

Even if you can’t find pomegranates in your part of the world, I hope you’ll enjoy these photos.

This pomegranate was so perfect it could have been a Japanese ceramic.









9 thoughts on “My Pomegranate Love

  1. Although I’ve lived in Greece all my life and never stopped appreciating the beauty and variety to be found in this country….you , Diana, with your enthusiasm and talent for writing, are helping me discover ( or re-discover) so many places, situations – and of course, foods , which bring back happy memories….can’t wait for the next post !

      • Here’s one of your first fans supporting you once again! And i, too, love pomegranates, which is why I planted two trees a few years ago but don’t know if they will come to fruition in my lifetime! Do you remember Ragavi 5?

      • Of course I remember that lovely little garden protected by attack cats and Cinnamon. Where we used to sing our hearts out and watched little Greece beat the big USSR at basketball. Thanks for being such a stalwart fan for SO many years.

  2. A terrific taste of Greece…More More More… I too remember with a smile the bananas sold at stop lights. Thanks again for the great read. xobeth

  3. ah pomegranates… we used to live on Folegandros where there was a big pomegranate tree in our yard, and we ate pomegranates all winter. Now we live in Komotini, where I just saw a few days ago the pomegranate molasses stuff at a small Turkish market here where I periodically go for fun food things – I’m American living in Greece but that doesn’t stop me from taking Turkish lessons here so I was able to translate the bottle – otherwise I never would have guessed what was in it!! I didn’t buy it but we eat fava alllll the time (my Greek husband could eat it 3x/week) and I’m always looking for ways to jazz it up – I may just try it! Thanks for the tips on getting the seeds out … I usually just paint my fingernails a dark color in winter and don’t worry about it 😀 I Cheers from another American – living in Greece – married to a Greek – new blogger! 🙂

    • Heidi, what a wonderful comment. I’d love to hear your story. From Folegandros to Komotini, therein lies not just one but many tales . . . We went to Folegandros a few years ago from Andros — 13 hours on the slow island hopper — and loved its flavor of 60s Greece, stayed at Anemomylos. As for Komotini, I love that too, especially the market/Turkish quarter. I will look up your blog and try to find out what else we have in common. How’s your Turkish coming along? I was in eastern Turkey in Oct 2010 and tried to pick up a few words, but have forgotten all except Tesekkur ederim or F Harry Stowe to you

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