My husband, Paul Philpott, spent many years travelling in the 'stans whilst working for overseas and development agencies. He is chronicling his adventures on his own blog - Impulse to Travel. I was lucky enough to join him on some of his journeys and fell in love with the fresh produce and the food of this region. As a herbivore myself, however, I must confess that I studiously avoided the boiled mutton and sheep's eyes for breakfast.
|Pomegranates in the market in Osh, Kyrgyzstan (copyright: Paul Philpott)|
Pomegranates have been cherished for their exquisite beauty, flavour, colour, and health benefits for centuries.
“Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech comely: thy temples are like a piece of pomegranate within thy locks.” (The Song of Solomon 4:3)
The name "pomegranate" derives from the Middle French "pomme garnete" - literally "seeded apple." It is also sometimes referred to as a Chinese apple. Many scholars believe that the forbidden - yet irresistible - fruit in which Eve indulged within the Garden of Eden was actually a pomegranate and not an apple.
Pomegranates are high in vitamin C and potassium, a great source of fibre, and low in calories. They contain three different types of polyphenols, a potent form of antioxidants. The three types - tannins, anthocyanins, and ellagic acid - are present in many fruits, but fresh pomegranate juice contains particularly high amounts of all three.
Compounds found only in pomegranates called punicalagins are shown to benefit the heart and blood vessels. Punicalagins are the major component responsible for pomegranate's antioxidant and health benefits. They not only lower cholesterol, but also lower blood pressure and increase the speed at which heart blockages (atherosclerosis) melt away.
Not only are pomegranates good for your heart and blood vessels but they have been shown to inhibit breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, leukemia and to prevent vascular changes that promote tumour growth in lab animals.
Pomegranate juice has also been found to contain substances that stimulate serotonin and oestrogen receptors, improving symptoms of depression and increasing bone mass in lab animals.
This recipe is a real winner. It is quick and easy to make and can be used as a salad, starter or relish. One word of warning - it is a good idea to wear an apron.
1 large juicy pomegranate
Cut the pomegranate in half with a sharp knife; hold each half upside down over a bowl and hit the back of the pomegranate with a wooden spoon until the seeds come out. Wash seeds in water and remove any remaining pith, which should float to the surface.
1 medium cucumber, finely diced
2-3 tomatoes, finely diced
1 green pepper, finely diced
1 red chilli, chopped (you can choose a mild or a hot one to taste)
½ bunch each of fresh mint and coriander, washed and chopped
1 small bunch spring onions, finely diced
Drizzle of olive oil
1 fresh lime, juiced
Mix all these ingredients together with the pomegranate seeds, stir well, cover and chill.
Serve as a salad, a starter or a relish.
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2. Aviram M, Dornfeld L, Rosenblat M, et al. Pomegranate juice consumption reduces oxidative stress, atherogenic modifications to LDL, and platelet aggregation:studies in humans and in atherosclerotic apolipoprotein E-deficient mice. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;71(5):1062-76. Aviram M, Dornfeld L. Pomeganate juice consumption inhibits serum angiotensin coverting enzyme activity and reduces systolic blood pressure. Atherosclerosis 2001;158(1):195-8.
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