I do not get excited about pomegranates. I like them, but they are not special to me. My family has a few pomegranate trees, and I think they are messy and difficult to eat. They make great fall decorations, though.
In the late 1970’s, my siblings, the neighbor kids and I made an event out of eating pomegranates. Since my mom didn’t want to clean up a huge mess, she forbid us from eating them in the house. She told us to put on our old clothes and go outside when we wanted to “crack open” a pomegranate. We would smash them on a concrete slab, pick out the seeds (arils), gorge and eventually become annoyed by the slow process of eating a pomegranate.
Apples and pears, which also ripen in the fall, were much easier to eat and my mom didn’t care if we ate them in the house.
My sister and daughter picking the last of the pomegranates from my parent’s tree
In college(1988), my chemistry partner, a gal from Iran (the country where pomegranates originated from) came to my house to study. She saw the pomegranate tree and her eyes lit up. She told us her family’s favorite fruit was pomegranates, so we gave her all the fruit from the harvest.
We were thrilled to know someone would enjoy eating them and my mom was ecstatic that we weren’t making a mess.
When I began working as a flavor chemist (1999), a customer request came in for a pomegranate flavor. My company did not have a pomegranate flavor in their library, so I had to develop one. I turned to Fenaroli’s Handbook of Flavor Ingredients, 2nd Edition, Volume 2 for a starting formula.
I found a pomegranate flavor formula under non-alcoholic beverages. It was the standard flavor formula for Grenadine. Grenadine is a sweet syrup used to flavor alcoholic beverages and Shirley Temples.
Homemade Grenadine calls for pomegranate juice, sugar, lemon juice and orange flower water. The formula Fenaroli presented was primarily iso-Amy acetate (banana like). The formula ended up tasting much sweeter than a real pomegranate.
Pomegranate fruit is dry, astringent, sour, fruity and woody. Pom Wonderful tastes like the pomegranates I remember from my youth, but it’s less messy and easier to consume (it also costs a bit more.)
To build a pomegranate flavor, I bring out items like davana oil, maltol, cognac oil, l-linalool, alpha-ionone, rose oil, biter orange oil, ethyl acetate, iso-amyl acetate, tannic acid and benzaldehyde. Pomegranate flavor isn’t just found in beverages, it is in sauces, confections, seasonings and more.
Pomegranates are not just decorations for fall table settings and mom, there are ways to peel without making such a mess.