Six little pomegranate seeds—that’s what we can blame winter on, at least according to Greek mythology. Pomegranates were the one food that the goddess Persephone was tempted to eat while she was imprisoned in Hades, thus condemning her to return to the Underworld for six months every year. During this time, her mother, Demeter, goddess of the harvest, mourns her absence and allows nothing to grow on Earth.
Today, pomegranates, which proliferate across central California in the fall, are just as tempting. Their glistening scarlet seeds adorn salads and turn dishes—from roast chicken to pudding—into seasonal celebrations.
Recently, scientists have turned up evidence to support some of the lore that associated the fruit with longevity and fertility, thanks in part to a modern-day Persephone named Lynda Resnick. Resnick (co-owner of the Franklin Mint, Teleflora and Fiji Water) was so taken with the fruit and its high levels of antioxidants, she founded the juice company POM Wonderful in 2002. Since then, POM has spent more than $34 million on studies and boasts a host of health claims (some of which have run afoul of the FDA and the FTC, both of which took action against POM this year).
Indeed, claims that pomegranate juice can prevent or cure diseases, such as diabetes, are misleading—and not supported by science. That said, positive findings from POM-sponsored research (mostly small, short-term pilot studies) have been published in prestigious scientific journals and are legit, though preliminary.
The upshot? Even if pomegranates won’t bring you back from the Underworld, the following recipes will brighten your dinner.