Seven Benefits of Eating Pomegranates

I wanted to get this post up before the pomegranate season was completely over. I have loved pomegranates since I was a child, we had several trees in our backyard in Central Phoenix. I loved to just pull them off the stem, crack them open and eat them outside.  Now we have had pomegranates in our yard in Mesa since we moved in, but this is the first year that I really paid attention to watering them accurately. In the weeks before I went to Mexico City this fall, I was patiently waiting for my pomegranates to be ready.

Hanging out amongst my trees

When I arrived back from the Distrito Federal, (D.F. as many call the Capitol of Mexico) my pomegranates were ripe and waiting for me! Hurray! I was so excited (it’s the little things in life)!

Pomegranates have become extremely popular in the last decade or so, but they are truly an ancient fruit, originating in the Near East – Persia and India. They eventually made their way to the U.S. with the Spanish explorers who called them granadas, and now they are in my backyard, lol!!

Some of the our pomegranate harvest

HORTICULTURE

The pomegranate is actually a shrub rather than a tree as is generally thought. It grows well in arid areas, which makes it nice for those of us whose live in the 115+ degree summer weather! Given the proper amount of water and in the proper way, these shrubs/bushes will flourish even in the desert!

This summer I noticed that while some of my pomegranates were growing nice and large, some were also splitting. I made a call to the friendly and helpful Maricopa Cooperative Extension https://extension.arizona.edu/maricopa and they gave me some great watering tips. Apparently the reason my fruit was splitting was because I was watering them unevenly, too much some times and not enough at others. So I put them on a consistent deep watering plan and that seemed to really help.

Large but some about ready to split

Pomegranate Health Benefits

Pomegranates have so many health benefits, it will be hard to list all of them here! Some of the most important are:

Very in high antioxidants, which could aid in preventing cancer and fight certain types of tumor growth. Contain flavonols which may decrease inflammation in the body.

Improves memory

Supplies Iron to blood

High amounts of Vitamin K and C

May lower blood pressure

May reduce plaque in carotid artery and improve heart health, this study in the Clinical Health Journal found that patients who were given pomegranate juice demonstrated reduced LDL and blood pressure https://www.clinicalnutritionjournal.com/article/S0261-5614(03)00213-9/fulltext

May have anti-tumor effects in fighting breast cancer. The National Institute of Health studies have been conducted that shown pomegranate extract can inhibit the proliferation of breast cancer cells. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23359482

The pomegranate leaf is also edible and has many health benefits.

*As always, the information provided here is not medical advice. Remember to consult with your medical provider to ensure that adding this or any food/herb/supplement will not contraindicate any medicines or health situation you may be experiencing.

Organic vs non organic? 

Well of course I always recommend eating organic foods a much as possible.  Regarding pomegranates, I researched the “Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen” and found them on neither,  maybe because the market is still emerging regarding this fruit and there have not been many studies done.  However, I did find in my research that the largest pomegranate producer in the USA does use pesticides in their production.  My suggestion as always is to grow your own if possible, if not then try the farmer’s market before buying conventional.  I have seen several posts on social media platforms from folks offering to sell pomegranates from their yards, please use discernment in these cases.

Finally ripened!!

My favorite way to eat pomegranate is straight from the tree. But I would also soon like to add a recipe for Chiles en Nogada. I first learned about this dish when I read the book “Como Agua Para Chocolate” and saw the movie. It looked so wonderful with all the different colors and flavors.

I do plan to make this dish in my kitchen some time soon and will share my recipe, but in the meantime here is a recipe you can try: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/chiles-en-nogada-recipe4-2062175

What is your favorite way to eat pomegranates??


Flor de Calabasa – The Amazing Pumpkin Blossom and Why It’s Healthy to Eat!

A precious bee is pollinating a pumpkin squash blossom on a farm I visited last month in
Hidalgo, Mexico

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Just in time for Thanksgiving, I have been fascinated lately with this wonderful little flower! Who knew that the beautiful flower we see growing in the garden with our squash could be so healthy! It is just the simple squash blossom, but until my dear friend Gloria showed me how to cook with it, I never paid much attention to it.

Besides having a lovely light and mildly sweet taste, the squash blossom has many nutritional benefits. It primarily offers vitamin C and A, as well as folates, phosphorous and magnesium, which are all very important nutrients for body function and health. They have very few calories and are low in carbohydrates so they make a great light snack.

Since squash blossoms are very delicate, you probably won’t find them in grocery store, it is possible that a local farmer’s market may have them from time to time. The best to place to get these flowers is from your own garden!

My pumpkin squash blossoms at home
Trying to get a selfie with my blossoms!

I have found it to be fairly easy to grow squash and pumpkin in my area, but I’m just trying to figure out how to get rid of the tiny ants that have been hanging around – without using any pesticides. I am also learning that there are male and female blossoms, and of course bees are needed to pollinate in order to produce fruit. I think that God is just so amazing in His design that He planned for the females to become fruit and the males are left for us to consume!! See this article for more information on how to distinguish the blossoms: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/squash/female-male-squash-blossoms.htm

The male squash blossom is the one to eat!

In the past Gloria spoke many times about the wonderful squash blossom quesadillas that she used to eat when she lived in Mexico. I never imagined it back then, but I had the chance to try this incredible dish with her near her family’s farm in Hidalgo last month!

While visiting the hot springs in Tlacotlapilco, we got to eat at the cocinas (or kitchen booths) that edged the pools. The ladies there made corn masa tortillas fresh on the griddle and served a comida corrida (daily special) as well as a la carte choices. Of course my choice was a flor de calabasa quesadilla and one with quelites (wild amaranth greens) both with melted Oaxaca style cheese that is very similar to mozzarella.

Oh my goodness were they ever delicious, and of course even better topped off with a spicy fresh salsa!

Handmade corn tortillas
Squash blossom quesadilla
Wild amaranth quesadilla

Amaranth greens are another incredible superfood. In my part of the world we call them bledo, has anyone ever heard of that? Like the squash blossom, the greens contain vitamin C, magnesium and phosphorus. Surprisingly they also have a marked amount of protein and calcium. This article gives a great summary of the amaranth health benefits: https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/vegetable/amaranth.html

You can make a great authentic Hidalgo style quesadilla right in your own kitchen as well! Here’s what we did to make ours:

Hidalgo Style Squash Blossom Quesadillas

Find the freshest squash blossoms available, (these can come from zucchini and other squash as well)

Clean/rinse gently but thoroughly, slice open to make sure there are no bees hiding out! Remove the stamen/pistil from the middle and set aside to dry.

Make the corn tortillas. I always try to use organic corn masa, Bob’s Red Mill has a really nice one. Cook the tortillas on a cast iron comal if possible, but take them off heat just before they are completely done. Set in a cloth towel to keep warm.

Chop the squash blossoms and about 1/2 white onion and a clove of minced garlic.

To make the quesadillas really authentic you will want to add some fresh chopped epazote herb as well. Dried will work also if you can get fresh. Taste this first, as it has a very distinct flavor and might take some getting used to! (:

Epazote Herb

Saute the chopped ingredients in a small amount of avocado oil or organic beef tallow, add salt and pepper to taste. Shred the Oaxaca cheese. Now you can start to fill the corn tortillas with the sauted ingredients and cheese and heat them in a hot skillet with a small amount of oil. Gently heat the quesadilla until cheese is melted, then add some fresh salsa if desired and ENJOY!!

Slicing the blossoms
The corn tortillas
Sauteing the blossoms and onions
Our Quesadillas de Flor de Calabasa!

These were really fun to make with the kids and they tasted great (almost as good as the ones in Hidalgo) Haha – there’s nothing like the real food on location!

What ideas do you have for cooking squash blossoms? I would love to hear about it!