Why Do We Eat Pomegranate on Rosh Hashanah?

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Apples and honey could be the substances mostly related to Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new 12 months celebration—they bid candy tidings for the approaching months. Certainly, yearly, as summer season attracts to an in depth (on the primary day of the seventh month within the Hebrew calendar), my household drizzles honey on pillowy challah and slices into sugar-dusted apple cake.

However pomegranate is simply as vital.

Maybe you’re extra conversant in pomegranates touted as a “superfood”. In 2009, POM Fantastic ran an advert with the slogan, “Cheat loss of life—the antioxidant energy of pomegranate juice.” (It was rapidly banned, as have been different advertisements claiming the juice will forestall coronary heart illness, most cancers, and erectile dysfunction.)

Whereas the fruit is not going to make you immortal or particularly virile, quite a few pomegranate well being claims are backed by science. It’s linked to the whole lot from elevated muscle energy and improved cholesterol levels to immune well being and even some anti-cancer properties. Coincidence although it could be, POM Fantastic’s co-owner Stewart Resnick depends on eight ounces of the juice and a pomegranate tablet day by day—he’s a prostate most cancers survivor and advised Forbes he hasn’t had a chilly in 10 years.

Well being-boosting properties apart, the fruit’s sweet-tart seeds, or arils, are primarily nature’s Gushers. That alone makes them worthy of adoration for my part, however, after all, there’s extra historical past concerned with pomegranates’ significance.

Within the Jewish religion, pomegranates are referred to as one of many “seven species of Israel,” together with wheat, barley, grapes, figs, olives, and dates—an idea outlined within the Parashat Eikev Torah portion. These crops are held within the highest regard and are sometimes integrated into on a regular basis consuming, in addition to ceremonies and artwork.

Information of the pomegranates’ existence date again at the very least to historical Elam and Mesopotamia within the third and fourth millennium BCE. It’s more than likely that the fruit initially grew wildly in what’s now Iran, however references to pomegranates—each cultivated and wild—additionally seem throughout this time round Levantine areas like modern-day Palenstine, Syria, Greece, and Egypt, plus elements of northern India.

Due to their blood-red colour, tangy taste, and dietary properties (notably in relation to digestion), pomegranates took on higher significance than different fruits in folklore and holistic medication, showing in Persian and Greek mythology. (Isfandiyar eats a pomegranate and turns into invincible; Persephone is compelled to eat arils within the underworld.) In Indian Ayurveda, pomegranate is really helpful for on a regular basis regulation of the totally different body doshas, to not point out particular medicinal applications from nosebleeds to dehydration. Pomegranates have been additionally vital in Islamic and Buddhist non secular traditions. (Respectively, they’re stated to develop in gardens of paradise described within the Quran, and are seen by Buddhists as one of many “three blessed fruits.”)

“Pomegranates have been overseas to Ashkenazim, however extraordinarily essential in central Asian and Sephardic tradition from the onset,” notes Gil Marks in Encyclopedia of Jewish Meals, which incorporates a pomegranate on the duvet. “When the Moors invaded Iberia in 711, they discovered a Jewish group on a hillside in northern Spain, which they named Gharnata al Yahud (actually ‘pomegranates of the Jews’); this metropolis later turned Granada.” Marks provides that the fruit has impressed Jewish cooks and artisans for millennia—from sixth-century Israelite vessels and historical Jewish cash (pomegranates, referred to as “rimon” in Hebrew, are nonetheless pictured on trendy Israeli variations), to ornate silver covers for Torah scrolls, that are nonetheless known as “rimonim.”

On the primary night time of Rosh Hashanah, it’s customized to say prayers over wine, honey- or raisin-sweetened challah, and apples. On the second night time, pomegranates are sometimes eaten as a substitute of apples. As Marks writes: “The Rosh Hashanah simile is, ‘could we be filled with deserves just like the pomegranate [is full of seeds.]’” Sephardic Jewish households steadily incorporate pomegranates on the Rosh Hashanah seder plate (together with gadgets like leeks, pumpkin, apples, and walnut-stuffed dates), signifying a want for blessings within the coming 12 months.

“Jewish custom teaches that the pomegranate is a logo of righteousness, data, and knowledge as a result of it’s stated to have 613 seeds, every representing one of many 613 mitzvot (commandments) of the Torah,” Damien Stone writes in Pomegranate: A Global History. Although the speculation has been dismissed—every pomegranate doesn’t in truth have the identical variety of seeds—the fruit has maintained its significance in Judaism.

“Pomegranates and Rosh Hashanah are inextricably linked in my thoughts,” The Jewish Cookbook writer Leah Koenig advised me. “I sometimes incorporate them as dessert—setting out a platter of Medjool dates, a pair kinds of cookies, entire pistachios, a damaged bar of darkish chocolate, and small wedges of pomegranates. It is such a stunning and easy strategy to finish a festive meal.”

With regards to incorporating pomegranate into dishes for Rosh Hashanah, there’s no flawed reply. Although your entire pomegranate is technically edible, the rind and membrane are fairly bitter. The Cocoa Puffs–sized arils, alternatively, have infinite potentialities. Eaten entire or pressed into juice, they lend tangy, floral taste for braising meat, garnishing salads or roasted vegetable sides, in addition to cocktails, and dessert.

Lady Meets Farm host, cookbook writer, and blogger Molly Yeh likes to make a pomegranate glaze for her spherical loaves of challah. The system is depraved easy, simply powdered sugar and pomegranate juice: Begin with 1 cup of sugar and whisk in 1 to 2 tablespoons of juice, till your required consistency is reached. “It’s the prettiest pure pink colour,” Yeh stated.

Eden Grinshpan, cookbook writer and host of Prime Chef Canada, recommends incorporating each pomegranate arils and molasses for depth. She factors to 2 recipes from her e book, Eating Out Loud, for Rosh Hashanah: cracked freekeh with walnuts, mint, and arils tossed with molasses and a honey-lemon dressing, and baba ghanoush, which Grinshpan stated “is loaded with the jeweled fruit.” A sprinkle of seeds lends “the creamy, smoky baba a pop of vivid taste and texture.”

When simmered till thick and sticky, pomegranate juice transforms right into a evenly candy, barely tannic molasses. A typical ingredient in Iranian and Turkish cooking, it may be bought at many grocery shops or on-line, however you may also make your own. Begin a meal with muhammara, the Turkish purple pepper and walnut unfold. Then do this molasses-marinated flank steak as a major, with glazy roasted carrots on the aspect. For dessert (or breakfast tomorrow?), pomegranate molasses provides fruity nuance to this pomegranate passion cake, which options each the molasses and an entire cup of seeds sprinkled on prime.

And whereas pomegranates can take a little bit of effort to seed, the web is full of hacks to make the method simpler. In The 100 Most Jewish Meals, earlier than the e book’s personal “schmutz-free” seeding methodology (whacking the halved fruit with a spoon over a bowl), psychosexual therapist, writer, and instructor Dr. Ruth Ok. Westheimer shares her personal ideas on the fruit: “I do know that pomegranates are nice, however it takes effort to eat one. That’s positively like good intercourse: It takes work for each to be good lovers.”

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