For decades, pomegranates have been grown on Valley farms and enjoyed for their sweet and tart arils, or seeds.
But these days – fueled by health research – pomegranates are no longer just a decorative item or something to dress up salads.
Rich in antioxidants and flavor, pomegranates are used in everything from flavoring Toostie Roll Pops to making juice bars.
And chefs, food makers and entrepreneurial farmers are exploring new uses for this super fruit.
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In Madera, Alex Lehman of Home Grown Cellars, 13702 Road 20, has developed several products, including, juice, jelly and honey, as well as oil that he sells for $10 an ounce.
Lehman uses a press to extract the oil from the dry arils.
"They say it builds collagen in people's skin," he says. "All I know is people buy it. I had a guy come in and buy 10 vials at one time."
For those who to prefer to drink their dose of pomegranates, Pom Wonderful, the Los Angeles-based company whose factory is in Del Rey, has created several different products from energy bars to juice concentrate.
And Twin Pomegranates, a Madera-based wine company, has crafted four different pomegranate wines, including a sparkling wine and semi-sweet and slightly tart wine. The wines are sold locally at Whole Foods and Save Mart stores.
Longtime pomegranate grower Dennis Simonian sells fresh pomegranates, juice and his own pomegranate wine at his Simonian Farms fruit stand, at Clovis and Jensen avenues.
"It really is amazing how popular pomegranates have become," Simonian says. "I sell at least 100 gallons of pomegranate juice a week."
Locally, consumers can still find fresh pomegranates at farmers markets and grocery stores. The Wonderful variety is the standard for pomegranates grown in the region. But new varieties include the Angel Red, which has a softer seed and is slightly less acidic.
When buying pomegranates, look for fruit whose skin is tight and has a little bit of sheen. Avoid fruit whose skin is starting to dry.
And for those who think extracting the seeds is too messy a process, Pom Wonderful and other local companies have done it for you. They sell fresh arils at most grocery stores.