Pomegranates brighten up the darkest night of the year

When I was in college, every winter break, my mom would greet me with a Tupperware full of anar, or pomegranates in Farsi. I would pop generous spoonfuls of the shimmering red seeds into my mouth — tart, fragrant, still deliciously cold out of the fridge — and picture my mother awaiting my arrival, standing over a cutting board, using both hands to do the same remove jewel. like seeds from the membrane, the deep purple colored her hands.

Pomegranates are important in Persian culture and cuisine – the basis of dishes such as Khoresh-e Fesenjoon, a sweet and sour stew, or Ash-e Anar, a pomegranate soup. Originating from what is now Iran, the fruit is part of the mythology of many ancient cultures; some believe it was the forbidden fruit of Eden. And as Naz Deravian explores in this story, this is particularly significant at this time of year. On Shab-e Yalda, the Iranian celebration of the winter solstice, pomegranates represent light triumphing over darkness and are passed around to welcome brighter days to come.

People often tell me that they avoid buying pomegranates, dismissing them as too time-consuming to prepare, too messy, too difficult – nothing like the instant gratification of, say, opening an orange. But I always find peeling to be a meditative experience. If you do it right (and there are many right ways), the seeds will slide straight out of the marrow. On the longest night of the year, take a few minutes to prepare this hard-earned fruit for yourself or a loved one. It will be worth it.

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