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Seeding a lifelong love of autumnal 'super fruit'

By Jocelyn Eikenburg | | Updated: 2021-11-01 14:21
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Farmers harvest pomegranates in Pishan county of Hotan, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, on Oct 8, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

The arrival of autumn has left me enchanted once again with its bountiful harvest of pomegranates. And as I savor this gem of the fruit world, I can't help but reflect on how living in China actually introduced me to the wonders of this unique food.

While pomegranate juice had always been a favorite of mine, for a long time, I couldn't say the same for the actual fruit. Admittedly, appearances played a big role in my anti-pomegranate prejudices. It's a bunch of pulpy little seeds, I had thought. How could anyone possibly take pleasure in eating that?

But by chance, my bias was challenged, thanks to a family gift several years ago.

A handful of small, spindly pomegranate trees grow just outside the gate of the family home in rural Zhejiang, and the branches were pendulous with the fruit every fall. So one autumn, my mother-in-law gave me and my husband a bag heaped with pomegranates she had picked herself.

At first, I shunned the seemingly burdensome pile of fruit on our dinner table, as well as my husband Jun's every attempt to cajole me into taking a bite. But with each passing day, where he continued to nibble on pomegranate and offer me a taste of the seeds, eventually curiosity prevailed.

I popped a handful in my mouth, preparing to be underwhelmed, and instead found myself stunned in the best possible way. The seeds were bursting with that same rich, sweet-tart flavor I had come to cherish about pomegranate juice, except it was superior to anything I had encountered in liquid form. These weren't a bunch of forgettable, pulpy seeds-they sparkled that day as ambrosial jewels of fruit.

Just like that, one taste converted me into a lifelong fan.

The healing properties of the fruit which I experienced only added to its charm. At that time in my life, moving around had dealt me a heavy dose of exhaustion and stress, which usually left me with the discomfort of a nervous stomach. But among the many health benefits of pomegranate is that it can naturally improve digestion. Regular consumption of the fruit had soothed my gut so much that I no longer required an after-dinner cup of peppermint tea, my usual digestive aid. Talk about a super-food!

As a connoisseur of the fruit, I'm always fascinated to discover the many locales in China touched by the sweet pleasures of the pomegranate, beyond my husband's hometown in Zhejiang.

While browsing a clothing store in the ancient town of Kashgar earlier this year, rows of earrings that glittered in bejeweled silver and gold designs caught my eye, and I asked the store owner to recommend something emblematic of the city. Among her suggestions was a pair shaped like golden pomegranates, encrusted with little ruby-like ornaments as seeds. Discovering that Kashgar was also known as the "pomegranate city" only deepened my burgeoning affection for the place-and made me long to journey back in autumn, when the streets would be awash with vendors selling the season's finest freshly squeezed juice from the fruit.

If you've yet to indulge in the delights of the pomegranate, it's not too late to try. One tiny, luscious mouthful could seed the beginnings of an enduring love for this exceptional fruit.

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