Pomegranates are a very unique food that is quickly gaining popularity in the culinary world. Despite being a well-known ingredient in many parts of the world, especially more tropical areas, not many people outside these areas know a lot about it.
The biggest question arising today is what exactly pomegranates are classified as and why. Just like the whole “tomato is a fruit” debate, this one is taking the internet by storm.
So, is pomegranate a citrus fruit? In short, definitely not. Pomegranates and citrus fruits fall under completely different botanical and culinary categories and don’t have any similar characteristics.
Today, we will be having an in-depth look at everything pomegranate, more specifically, its classification. Is pomegranate a citrus fruit? Is it a berry? Is it even a fruit? We will answer all of those questions and much more!
Is Pomegranate A Fruit?
With the internet becoming more accessible to everybody around the world, naturally, more and more facts and questions are arising surrounding food and more specifically, raw ingredients.
Over the last couple of years, we have learned that tomatoes are fruits, strawberries aren’t technically berries, and oranges aren’t always orange! So of course, interesting, lesser-known, and “strange” fruits like pomegranate will also come into question.
The question that we see most often is whether or not pomegranate is even a fruit. Simply put, yes, pomegranates are classified as fruits.
Fruits Vs Vegetables
The biggest factor that is taken into consideration when classifying fruits and vegetables is the part they come from. The shape, size, color, and even taste have nothing to do with its classification. You can get bitter-tasting fruits and sweet-tasting vegetables.
In botany, fruits come from flowering plants that bear seeds. These seeds form from the ovaries of the plants after they have flowered. Pomegranates grow from the flowers and are therefore a fruit.
So, when you think of fruits, you probably automatically think about bananas, apples, oranges, and strawberries. However, fruits also include foods like nuts, tomatoes, wheat grains, and corn. Technically, all of these ingredients also fit the scientific description of “fruits.”
Vegetables, on the other hand, are considered to be all the other edible parts of a plant that don’t come from the flowering parts. These include, for example, roots or tubers like potatoes, stems like leeks, and even the leaves, like spinach.
Each of these categories (fruits and vegetables) have a ton of subcategories. Fruits can be subdivided into berries, stone fruits, citrus, and many more. And so can vegetables! These categories help us better understand what we are working with.
When thinking about berries, for example, you automatically think of small summer fruits that are brightly colored and have very sweet flavors. When you think about stone fruits, you think of juicy fruits with sweet flavors and a large pit in the middle.
Unfortunately, sometimes it isn’t as easy to classify plant-based foods into each of these categories or even their subcategories. Let’s take strawberries as an example.
Strawberries are widely known as berries, however, scientifically they cannot be classified as one. Berries grow from the ovaries of plants.
Strawberries, on the other hand, grow from the receptacle that holds the ovaries. This makes them an aggregate accessory fruit. Each tiny yellow seed on the outside of the strawberry is technically an ovary of the flower.
There are hundreds of examples like this as we have mentioned before and pomegranates are one of those examples.
Pomegranates specifically are without a doubt classified as fruits. These fruits are classified under the Lythraceae family of flower-bearing plants.
Pomegranates range in color but are most often some shade of red or pink with hints of purple. The husk has two parts; a hard epicarp (outer layer) and a soft mesocarp. This mesocarp is part of what gives pomegranates their unique internal shape.
The membranes of the mesocarp form chamber-like structures in which the bright red juicy seeds grow. Depending on the size of the fruit, each pomegranate can hold between 200 and 1400 seeds!
Is Pomegranate A Citrus Fruit?
There are a few reasons some people think pomegranates are a part of the citrus fruit family. First, pomegranates have a slightly acidic, tart, or bitter flavor to them.
The second reason is because of their internal structure. The internal structure of pomegranates almost resembles the segments of citrus fruits. However, these factors aren’t enough to scientifically classify pomegranates as citrus fruits.
Citrus fruits are classified under a different family than pomegranate fruits.
Although citrus does come from flowering trees (which is what makes them a fruit), they are subdivided into a family called Rutaceae.
If you can remember, pomegranates are classified under the Lythraceae family. These two sub-divisions aren’t even closely related, making it impossible for pomegranates to be classified as citrus.
Is Pomegranate A Berry?
Pomegranates are actually a type of berry! We were just as surprised as you are! Like we’ve said before, a lot of the time something doesn’t fit the generalized description of a certain category.
Berries are defined as fruits produced from the ovary of a single flower. The many seeds inside the pomegranate fruit, which are also called arils, did all grow from a single flower on the tree and are therefore a berry.
Many people still argue this point, however, science doesn’t lie. Pomegranates are definitely one of those exceptional ingredients that follow their own set of rules.
It doesn’t look like your typical berry, it doesn’t taste like your typical berry, and it doesn’t even grow like your typical berry – yet, it is still a berry.
Pomegranates, like most fruits and more specifically berries, have a ton of nutrients in them. And nutrients mean health benefits!
First and foremost, they are extremely high in antioxidants which help protect your cells from diseases like cancer as well as protect them from general damage. Antioxidants are known to help reduce inflammation and the effects of aging in your body.
These fruits also aid with lowering blood pressure and your blood sugar levels. It can also help reduce your “bad cholesterol” known as low-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
The biggest downside to pomegranates is that they are extremely high in calories because of their high sugar content. One cup of pomegranate seeds contains roughly 24 grams of sugar and around 144 calories. So, moderation is key!
Pomegranates are extremely versatile fruits that can be used in savory dishes, sweet baked goods, and a wide variety of beverages. It is also sometimes used as a natural coloring agent. These seeds can also be used whole or juiced.
Pomegranate Seed Uses
To use them whole, you have to first carefully remove them from their shell. The easiest way to do this is by first hitting the fruit with a spatula or spoon. Don’t smash the fruit, but give it a hard enough tap to help loosen the seeds.
Then, cut the fruit in half and break it apart. Most of the seeds should be loose and fall out with ease. If there are still seeds attached to the membranes, you can either remove them by hand or give the skin a few more firm taps with your spatula.
The seeds can mostly be used to help add texture to a dish, both savory and sweet. The juiciness and flavor of the fruit won’t be released until the seeds are “popped” and the juices have been let out.
These seeds work fantastic in breakfast bowls, as a garnish for pancakes, cakes, and various other baked goods, or as an addition to salads and even casseroles.
Pomegranate Juice Uses
You can either buy pre-made pomegranate juice or make your own. Making your own at home will require some work, but if definitely worth it!
Pomegranate juice is used to add color, moisture, and a ton of pomegranate flavor to a dish. So, if you want to make pomegranate-flavored ice cream, you would use juice or concentrate instead of seeds.
Pomegranate juice is great for marinades, sauces, flavoring liquids, and of course, a ton of beverages. There are hundreds of famous pomegranate flavored cocktails such as the Pomegranate Cosmopolitan, a Margarita, and a Pomegranate Moscow Mule.
What is the difference between pomegranate seeds and arils?
Pomegranate arils are the juicy pulps inside the fruit. They are commonly referred to as pomegranate seeds. The main confusion comes in when people and recipes refer to actual seeds of pomegranates. These seeds are also edible, but very difficult to find by themselves.
So, when making a recipe, be sure you know exactly which of these “seeds” they are referring to.
Are Pomegranates Poisonous?
The root, peel, and stem of pomegranates are potentially poisonous, especially if consumed in large amounts. However, we wouldn’t see why anyone would want to eat those parts.
When it comes to sweet fruits, the other parts of the plant are usually very bitter and unappetizing to consume. It’s better to be safe than sorry and only stick to the juicy sweet arils attached.
Are Pomegranates Seasonal Fruits?
These are definitely seasonal fruits and love the warmer climates. In the United States, more specifically California, pomegranates are harvested between the end of September and right throughout November.
However, because so many fruits are imported and exported, it is very possible to find these berries year-round in most parts of the world.
Up Next: Can You Freeze Pomegranate Seeds?