How can you tell if a pomegranate is ripe?

Pomegranate color ripens to a bright red/deep red shade on the outside. The color depends on the potash availability in the soil. Usually before ripening, the skin is hard, tight and cannot be easily scratched. When ripe, the outer skin becomes bit soft. If you are able to scratch the skin using your fingernail and gentle pressure, then it is ripe.

Another sign is when the patals of the crown turn inside, it is a stage of maturity and the fruit is ready to eat.

The unripe fruit is exactly round in shape like apple. When ripe, the round shape is changed with the sides slightly become square. This happens due to the arils pressing against the outer wall as they reach maximum juice content. A pomegranate has slots inside the fruit, the round shape is stressed and the fruit looks flattened on the sides.

An easy way to remove the seeds is to cut the pomegranate in half then hold one half in your hand seed side down over a large bowl. Wallop the half with a wooden spoon. The seeds come out quite easily saving time over the old fashioned method of using a pin to remove each individual seed.

The best way to get to the seeds is to slice the pomegranate almost in half, from crown to halfway to the bottom. Use your fingers to break the two halves apart, and then tear away the connecting membranes and remove the seeds over a large bowl, half filled with water. The seeds will sink to the bottom and the membrane will float on the top. Skim off the membrane and strain the seeds of water. To juice them, put the seeds in a blender and pulse a few times, just enough to break up all the seeds. Let the mixture sit for a minute for the hard seed bits to settle and pour through a strainer. Add sugar to taste.

One of my earliest memories is that of using money my grandmother had given me to buy candy to buy a pomegranate instead. Oh, I loved them. I loved the fact that we kids had to dress up special in our worst clothes in order to eat them. We had to eat them outside, too (it's still pretty warm in November in Los Angeles where we lived when I was a kid), and spit the seeds out into the shrubbery. Messy, juicy, sweet food that involves sanctioned spitting? We were in heaven.

Now we have our own pomegranate tree and we get to hang out in pom heaven come every November. (No more seed spitting, we grownups eat them whole.) Here's the thing to know about pomegranates (other than the juice stains) - just because the fruit is red doesn't mean that the seeds inside are ripe. We don't pick our pomegranates until they begin to burst at the seams. This usually happens a few days after a rain. The seeds absorb the moisture and the skin cannot contain them anymore. Once the skin has cracked to reveal the seeds the pomegranates must be picked immediately, and used up quickly, or they will get moldy.