Pomegranates are so beautiful, with their mottled ruby-red skin and exotic, slightly angular shape, it seems a shame to destroy them to get at the juicy, tasty part inside. You must, though, if you wish to sample a delicacy that has been around apparently forever and has been celebrated, according to Elizabeth Schneider's "Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables," by poets, painters and storytellers from China to Greece to Persia to Israel to Rome.
Pomegranates begin appearing on store shelves in late fall and early winter. Ms. Schneider advises buying large, richly colored, heavy fruits, which promise the most juice.
There are two ways to enjoy pomegranates: To drink the juice, which you can do straight from the fruit, or to gently open the fruit and remove the myriad of tangy, bright red seed sacs for bite and crunch in salads, soups, meat dishes or desserts.
The traditional way to drink the juice is to roll the fruit around on a tabletop or counter, pressing gently, until all the juice sacs surrounding the seeds have broken. Then bite a small hole in the skin and suck out the juice.
According to Ms. Schneider, pomegranates contain a "stupendous" amount of potassium, a "more modest" amount of vitamin C, very little sodium and have about 105 calories each. Here is one of her recipes:
Salad of winter squash, pomegranate and chicory
1 small butternut squash (about 1 3/4 pounds)
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 cup corn oil
1 medium-small head of curly chicory, washed, dried, and cut into thin slivers (see note)
1 large pomegranate, seeded, or about 1 cup seeds
Halve squash and remove seeds; cut into 2-inch sections and pare off rind. Cut flesh into julienne strips. Drop into boiling salted water; return to a boil, then drain at once. Drop into a bowl of ice water, then drain. Spread on an absorbent towel to dry.
Combine ginger, salt, lemon juice and vinegar in a jar; shake to blend. Add oil and shake again. Combine three-quarters of the dressing with the squash. Toss and refrigerate until serving time.
To serve, toss remaining dressing with chicory; add squash and pomegranate seeds and mix gently.
Note: French chicory is preferable, if available. It is milder than domestic chicory.