Why Do We Eat Pomegranates On Rosh Hashanah? | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Why Do We Eat Pomegranates On Rosh Hashanah?

Why Do We Eat Pomegranates On Rosh Hashanah?

Pomegranates are a symbolic Rosh Hashanah food. The Nosher/JTA

Plus 8 pomegranate-themed recipes to try this Rosh Hashanah.

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(The Nosher/JTA) – Pomegranates, or rimonim in Hebrew, are among the most recognizable and highly symbolic fruits in Jewish culture. Originating in Persia, these reddish, thick-skinned fruits (technically a berry) begin to appear in markets at the end of summer and are readily available for holiday cooking by Rosh Hashanah.

According to Gil Marks in "The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food," the abundance of seeds, nestled into a white membrane and encased in a protective and leathery skin, is associated with the 613 commandments in the Torah. They serve as symbols of righteousness and fruitfulness,  as expressed in the Rosh Hashanah expression, “May we be full of merits like the pomegranate (is full of seeds).”

This ancient fruit, prized for its juice and seeds (called arils), is mentioned in the Bible as one  of the seven most bountiful agriculture products of ancient Israel. It is associated with fertility and sensuality, and is mentioned six times in the Song of Songs.

In biblical times, pomegranates were used to add tart flavors to ancient dishes before lemons and tomatoes were discovered. Since then, pomegranates have been used to add unique and complex dimensions to Sephardic and central Asian soups, stews, sauces, chutneys and desserts. They may be juiced, dried, reduced, ground or pressed into pomegranate oil.

Today, pomegranates are prized for their antioxidant and potent nutritional value, just as they were in ancient Egypt when the seeds were believed to heal intestinal disorders. Juice, molasses (actually a reduction and thickening of the juice and sometimes called pomegranate concentrate or syrup) and arils are used in a wide range of applications including cocktails, glazes, simmer sauces, and glistening toppings for green salads and vegetable dishes.

In "The New Persian Kitchen," author Louisa Shafia illustrates removing the seeds a few different ways, but I like the “water method” best. Simply slice off the two ends and quarter the fruit with a knife. Submerge the quarters in a bowl of cold water and pull out the seeds with your fingers. The pith and skin float to the surface as the arils sink to the bottom. Scoop out everything but the seeds and pour water and seeds through a mesh colander to collect them.

Pomegranates are highly symbolic in Jewish tradition, most often associated with fertility and good deeds. Consider using them in your Rosh Hashanah meals as a positive omen, or segulah. Here are eight pomegranate recipes to try:

  1. Pomegranate and Honey Glazed Chicken

  2. Chef Itta’s Pomegranate Chicken Recipe

  3. Quinoa Salad with Dates, Figs, Pomegranate Seeds

  4. Chicken Fesenjan with Walnuts and Pomegranate Syrup

  5. Apple Pomegranate Sangria

  6. Yellow Layer Cake with Pomegranate Frosting

  7. Persian Pomegranate Rice

  8. Wheatberries with Pomegranates and Carmelized Sweet Potatoes

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