Pomegranate juice contains higher levels of antioxidants than most other fruit juices
– Mandy Ferreira, Medical News Today | Fifteen health benefits of pomegranate juice, 21 January 2019
Since the middle of last March (I believe it all started on 13 March), when we’re not out on our bikes, or standing in lines, trying not to have apoplectic fits about our line neighbours who clearly missed the day in school when the length of 2 meters was explained, we have been reading, reading, reading. We’ve read a number of books on Persian cuisine. One of our favourites was “Samarkand: Recipes & Stories from Central Asia and the Caucasus” by Caroline Eden and Eleanor Ford. We’re still in the middle of reading Samin Nosrat’s excellent book “Salt, Acid, Fat, Heat”.
What made men endure scorching heat, numbing cold, and howling winds, losing their minds — and lives — in a bid to reach Samarkand, hidden behind a barricade of mountain, grasslands, and sand? The answer is trade, because from the sixth to the thirteenth centuries, Samarkand […] became Asia’s great store window, one of the world’s finest marketplaces, where everything from rare spices to yak-tail fly whisks were bartered and sold. […] This is a city that has been at the crossroads of food culture for centuries.
Caroline Eden and Eleanor Ford, Samarkand, p.8
Persian cuisine is, above all, about balance — of tastes and flavors, textures and temperatures. In every meal, even on every plate, you’ll find both sweet and sour, soft and crunchy, cooked and raw, hot and cold. In the winter, we ate khoresh-e fesenjoon, a hearty, sweet-and-sour pomegranate and walnut stew to warm us from within. In the summer, we’d peel eggplant for khoresh-e bademjoon, a bright tomato and eggplant stew made distinctly tart with lemon juice and ghooreh, or unripe grapes.
– Samin Nosrat, NYTimes | Samin Nosrat’s 10 Essential Persian Recipes, 14 May 2019
Not surprisingly, pomegranates, pomegranate molasses, and pomegranate juice are featured in many Persian recipes. So when we were masked up following the one-way arrows at the newly rearranged Supermarket, trying to find things on our list, and saw Pomegranate Juice with 100% on the label, we grabbed a box.
How could we not?
T made a delicious stew with pork shoulder and pomegranate juice and red wine and …. (Did we take a photo?? Of course not! Do we remember exactly what went into the stew? Of course not!) It was delicious!
And then we really read the label.
Created using only 100% fruit juice and no added sugar, [Company Name] brings you the taste of the finest Pomegranates in this mouthwatering juice. […]
Ingredients: Water, Fruit Juices From Concentrate (Apple, Pomegranate, Aronia), Natural And Artificial Flavours, Vitamin C
It’s a juice blend!!?! And. What are those artificial flavours doing in there?
More to the point, what on earth is “Aronia”?
We looked in our handy copy of “The Food Lover’s Companion 4th Edition” by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst to find… nothing. There is no entry for “Aronia”. What??? This wonderful little book has never failed us before!
A quick search on the internet revealed that Aronia berries are Chokeberries.
Now, we’ve heard of choke cherries. But not chokeberries. Are they the same?? Back we went to the Herbts:
chokecherry Any of several varieties of wild cherries native to North America. [...] They're very astringent and, though not good for out-of-hand eating, make excellent jams and jellies. Chokeberries are the inedible fruit of an ornamental shrub.
Inedible?! What are they doing in this juice then? …back to the internet:
Today most use chokeberry as an ornamental plant, but also more and more for its food use because of their very high content of antioxidant pigment compounds, like anthocyanin. The name “chokeberry” comes from the astringency of the fruits, which some say are inedible when raw.
– Kevin Jarvis, Permaculture News | Aronia in Permaculture
Aha!! Quel relief that the Herbsts were possibly a little sloppy with their decree that aronia is inedible, and failed to mention its antioxidant properties. Our copy of their book is from 2007. Perhaps there is an update for aronia in later editions.
Tasting the unsweetened 100% juice blend, we could not help noticing that it tastes just like apple juice.
If we wanted apple juice, we would get apple juice!
On our last trip to the grocery store, in search of a different company’s 100% pomegranate juice, we saw that the same company makes another version of Pomegranate juice with the following ingredients: “Water, Fruit Juices from Concentrate (Pomegranate, Aronia), Sugar, Malic Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavours, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)”. On their website, they say:
Regarded as a super fruit full of antioxidants, the flavor of the pomegranate is both sweet and naturally tart.
To create our refreshing and deliciously light juice drink, we carefully select the best pomegranates from Turkey, an area renowned for producing some of the best pomegranates in the world!
We just tasted the juice. “Naturally tart”, eh?
It was a tiny bit sweeter than the 100% juice blend; in spite of the lack of apples in the ingredients, it tastes just like sweet apple juice.
Why oh why does it not have the wonderful tartness of pomegranate?
Searching again on the internet for the best pomegranate juice, I see that we could order 100% pure unsweetened pomegranate juice from a company in the USA. There is no shipping charge. But really, there shouldn’t be, considering it costs Cdn$34 for just under a liter! (If we were in the USA, it would cost US$12.35 for the same amount….)
One of the companies listed has none in stock and a note: “We don’t know when or if this item will be back in stock.”
edit 23 January 2021: I wandered around searching for other sources of pomegranate juice and came across Lisa Lin’s (Healthy Nibbles and Bits) instructions on How to Make Pomegranate Juice. She says that 5 to 6 large pomegranates are needed to make approximately 4 cups of pomegranate juice.
No wonder pomegranate juice is so expensive!
Still, I wonder how difficult it would be to make pomegranate juice out of frozen pomegranate seeds. Our supermarket sells them, and they are not bad at all. It’s also far easier to get at the seeds. Actual pomegranates often look pretty beat up by the time they get to our fruit and vegetable shelves here in the frozen north…..
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