The pomegranate, has recently been acclaimed for its health benefits, in particular, for its disease fighting antioxidant potential. Preliminary studies suggest that pomegranate juice may contain almost three times the total antioxidant ability compared with the same quantity of green tea or red wine. It also provides a substantial amount of potassium, is high in fibre, and contains vitamin C and niacin.

Used in folk medicine (to treat inflammation, sore throats, and rheumatism) for centuries in the Middle East, India, and Iran, the pomegranate is about the size of an orange or an apple. It has a tough, dark red or brownish rind. The seeds and the juicy translucent scarlet red pulp surrounding the seeds of the pomegranate are the edible parts of the fruit, although only the pulp has any flavour. Encased within a bitter tasting, white, spongy, inedible membrane, the seeds can be gently pried out with your hands. Perhaps one of the reasons the pomegranate isn't as popular as it deserves is that it takes time and care to get to the seeds. The flavour of these juicy seeds is delicate, sweet, and tangy.

Grenadine, a light syrup added to alcoholic drinks or soft drinks, used to be made from pomegranate juice, though now it is made with food colouring. There are concentrated forms of pomegranate juice available, however. Called variously pomegranate molasses, concentrated pomegranate juice, or pomegranate essence, they are available in Middle Eastern markets, gourmet food stores, and some health food stores.

Pick up the fruit to feel its weight (the seeds represent about 52% of the weight of the whole fruit). If it feels light for its size, select a heavier one. The skin should appear shiny, taut and thin, without cracks or splits.

Store whole pomegranates in a dark, cool place for up to a month, and in the refrigerator for up to two months.

Seeds can be refrigerated for up to three days. To freeze the seeds, place them in an airtight container and they will keep in the freezer for about six months. When the seeds thaw, they will no longer be edible as fresh seeds, but they will be fine for extracting the juice. In fact, the freezing process will break down the cell walls of the pulp surrounding the seeds and as they thaw, they will naturally give up their juice. If you've made pomegranate juice, it can be frozen for about six months in an airtight container.

Pomegranate juice is used to make jelly, juice, sauces, vinaigrettes, and marinades. The whole seeds can be sprinkled on salads, desserts, and used as a garnish for meat, poultry, or fish.

To remove the seeds, slice the crown end off and gently score the rind vertically in several places from top to bottom. Place the pomegranate in a bowl of water. Carefully break the sections apart, prying the seeds from their anchors on the pith with your fingers. Remove the thin membranes that separate the clusters of seeds. The seeds will sink and the rind and membranes will float. Gather up the seeds in a colander.

To make juice, place the pomegranate seeds in a food processor or blender and process until a juice is formed. Strain the seeds out of the juice through a fine-mesh sieve or a strainer lined with cheesecloth.