Papayas and Pomegranates

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My breakfast or mid-morning snack always consists of fresh fruit and right now I can’t get enough of papayas and pomegranates. Luscious and earthy, papayas are the perfect accompaniment for pomegranate seeds, which are sweet, tart, juicy and so refreshing! Combined together, these fruits make a delicious and colourful pairing with plenty of texture and favour! I add nothing more to this – no dressing nor any other additional flavour enhancements, but you certainly could jazz it up if you wanted. (Fresh mint would work nicely, a little lemon or lime juice, grated ginger, etc.). 

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In addition to the many nutritional benefits from consumption of raw papayas and pomegranates, the literature shows that each fruit provides remarkable health, healing and disease prevention benefits. Because of this, both fruits are gaining interest among researchers due to their nutritional, pharmaceutical and therapeutic application potential.

According to Joel Fuhrman, M.D., the pomegranate is one of the most powerful, nutrient dense foods for overall good health. Clinical findings have shown a correlation between pomegranate compounds and their positive effect on both human and animal cardiovascular, nervous, and skeletal health. Furthermore, pomegranates are good for heart and blood vessel health, and have been shown to inhibit breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, leukemia and to prevent vascular changes that promote tumor growth in lab animals (source).

Another nutrient-dense fruit is the papaya, and the internet is chalk full of the usefulness of each part of the papaya plant, including the seeds, stems and leaves. High in enzymes and anti-oxidants, papayas are known to lower blood cholesterol levels, provide pain relief for those suffering from arthritis, edema and osteoporosis, prevent cell and tissue damage, which among other diseases, can lead to premature ageing, and treat intestinal worms in the body from consumption of the seeds. Papayas are about half as calorie dense as pomegranates (I have read anywhere between 30-45 kcal /100 g of papaya vs 83-90 kcal/100 g pomegranate) which makes papaya a favorite fruit for people trying to reduce their weight. With all this going for it, it’s no wonder the Mayans used to regard the papaya tree as the “Tree of Life”.

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How to select a papaya

Papaya is fully ripe when it is bright yellow and yields to slight pressure. However, papayas are likely picked before they are optimally ripe in order to have some shelf life once they reach grocery stores in destinations as far away as Canada, where I live.  Consequently, by the time I see them, they tend to be more green than yellow, which just means they need a day or two to ripen at home, especially if they are still quite firm. 

  • Choose a papaya that yields to gentle pressure, has smooth skin and feels heavy for it’s size.
  • Generally, the more yellow, the more ripe so select papayas that are mainly yellow with a bit of green.
  • Smell the bottom of the fruit – you are looking for a sweet aroma.

Storage

  • Store ripe papaya in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to one week. If you need it to ripen before eating, leave it at room temperature away from direct sunlight. 

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How to select a pomegranate

  • Select a pomegranate that feels heavy for its size – pick a few up to compare weight
  • Select a pomegranate that is evenly round – avoid those that are flat on one or more sides
  • The colour of the skin is less of an indicator of fruit quality – in general, you want one with a glossy, deep red skin but the colour can vary from bright red to a reddish-brown. It should be free of dark spots
  • Select a pomegranate that feels firm

Storage

  • Store in the refrigerator – I have read that pomegranates will stay fresh anywhere from 4 weeks to several months refrigerated, but have never had one around long enough to verify those claims!

How To Open and Remove the Seeds from a Pomegranate

This is the least messy method of removing pomegranate seeds that I know of but it’s helpful to wear old clothes or an apron because pomegranate juice does stain. I usually wear nitrile gloves for this task as well. 

Place the pomegranate on a cutting board and make a horizontal slice right across the top 1/4 or  1/3 of the fruit.

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With the tip of a sharp knife cut vertical wedges through the skin wherever you can see the natural separation of pods, about 1/4 – 1/2-inch deep.

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Pull the wedges away from the centre. To remove the arils (seeds) from their pods, gently flex the wedge with your hands to loosen the membrane and pry the seeds into a clean bowl using your fingers. (I have tried this step in a bowl of water but I haven’t found the task any easier or more efficient in a bowl of water than it is without using a bowl of water). 

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This uncommon combination of fruits exemplifies all that is exotic in the world of fresh fruit of tropical and Middle Eastern origin and these flavours really work well together. Serves 4. 

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe papaya
  • 1 pomegranate, seeded

Slice the papayas lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Discard the seeds. Remove the skin using a sharp knife and cut the flesh of the papaya in thin slices or cubes. Divide the papaya cubes evenly between 4 serving bowls. 

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Remove the pomegranate seeds from the fruit and sprinkle on top of the papaya in all 4 bowls. Serve! 

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