Pomegranate: Symbol of Prosperity

Pomegranates are having a moment.  Their popularity may have peaked a decade ago, but that's besides the point.  I felt like I'd hit the jackpot every time I cut into a pomegranate this season, unveiling arils that would be worth their weight in actual rubies.  Their sweetness is tempered with a hint of tartness, making them a welcomed addition in dishes any time of day.  My daughter and I share a pomegranate over breakfast at least once a week, and they add a burst of color to my "superfoods" salad of kale, roasted sweet potato, and lemon tahini dressing.  Half a cup provides around 4g of fiber, and, according to the Pomegranate Council, not one but THREE different forms of polyphenols!  Look for smooth-skinned, heavy pomegranates with a slightly squared shape and medium to dark red coloring.  Pomegranates should be available in the U.S. through February.

Planning an appropriate meal for New Year's Eve – one that would reflect the themes of love, joy, and prosperity – brought the larger cultural significance of the pomegranate to my attention.  While the fruit may be native to Iran and northern India, it has a rich history in the Mediterranean, and is featured prominently in Greek Mythology.  It is believed that Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, held the pomegranate sacred and was the first to plant its seeds on the island of Cyprus.  In nearby Turkey, the pomegranate is reduced to syrup, pressed to make juice, and featured as a flavoring in the eponymous Turkish delight.  Traditional folklore states that Turkish brides receive a pomegranate on their wedding day, and in some cases revelers will smash a pomegranate on the newly-wedded couple's doorstep to ensure prosperity – a tradition that is also carried out by some Greeks on New Year's Eve.  Opa!

As a proud Cypriot hoping for continued health and newfound fortune in the new year, I'll surely be cutting into a pomegranate as 2015 comes to a close.  I encourage you to do the same, or at the very least, indulge in a pomegranate juice martini.  Cheers to a Vibrant 2016!