Why This Recipe Works
- Splitting the pomegranate into its natural segments, following the lines of the white pith and exterior ridges, minimizes cutting through the seeds and reduces unwanted mess.
- Submerging the segments to remove the seeds under water reduces mess.
- Letting the seeds sit in the water for a few minutes allows any loose unwanted white pith to float to the top.
Pomegranates have been associated with life, death, rebirth, eternal life, fertility, abundance, and marriage. In Ancient Greek mythology, it was the pomegranate that explained the change in seasons. The story goes that when Hades married Persephone and took her to the underworld, he tricked her into eating six pomegranate seeds, which condemned her to spend eternity there. This caused Persephone’s mother Demeter, goddess of fertility, to go into mourning, which meant everything on land ceased to grow—but only for six months of each year.
Since she ate six seeds, Persephone was freed from the underworld and allowed to see her mother the other six months of the year. It was those months (spring and summer) when mother and daughter were reunited, and the land was fertile.
I can’t promise you the same effect if you eat pomegranate seeds, but they’re delicious anyway. To find the best, easiest, least messy method for removing the seeds, I put three common methods to the test. The clear winner is outlined in the recipe steps below.
Method 1: Whack With a Wooden Spoon
Technique: Halve the pomegranate across the equator (not poll to poll). Working with one half at a time, hold it cut side down over a large bowl. Using a heavy wooden spoon or spatula, firmly hit the skin side of the halved pomegranate with enough pressure to knock the arils into the empty bowl. Continue to firmly hit the pomegranate until all arils are removed.
Result: A great outlet for any built-up aggression, but it did require a lot of force, and took much more whacking than I anticipated. While it was labor intensive, it was mostly successful, but there were still a few arils remaining that I had to scoop out anyway.
Method 2: Cut Into its Natural Segments and Scoop
Technique: Using a very sharp knife, trim off about 1/4-inch from the blossom end and the crown end of the pomegranate, exposing the arils inside. Follow the lines of the interior white pith and the exterior raised ridges to cut through the pomegranate skin, pole to pole, into its natural segments. You should have 5 or 6 segments (depending on the pomegranate). Use a soup spoon and fingers to separate arils from pith and skin into the empty bowl.
Result: This was definitely a step in the right direction. With the ends of the pomegranate cut off, it was easy to see the natural lines of pith separating the inner segments. But the method was messy and led to more splatter and crushed arils than I cared to deal with.
Method 3 (Winning Method): Cut into Segments and Deseed Under Water
Technique: Start with Method 2’s approach for segmenting the pomegranate. Then submerge the segments in a bowl of water and pry out the seeds there.
Result: Removing seeds in a bowl of water not only minimized mess, it was easier to separate any remaining loose pith from the seeds. Letting the seeds settle in the bowl of water for a few minutes allowed the white pith to float to the top, while the seeds remained submerged at the bottom of the bowl. All I had to do was use a slotted spoon to scoop out the bulk of the remaining white pith before draining the seeds and blotting them dry on a large plate, where I could also do one final inspection to remove any remaining pith.
How to Cut a Pomegranate (With Much Less Mess)
We tested some of the most common methods of cutting them find the easiest, cleanest one.
Place a large sheet of parchment paper on a cutting board. Working on top of the parchment paper, and using a very sharp knife, trim off about 1/4-inch from the blossom end and the crown end of the pomegranate, exposing the seeds inside; you will see lines of interior white pith stemming from the center to the peel like the spokes of a bicycle, marking the fruit’s natural segments.
Using a paring knife, cut through the peel of the pomegranate from pole to pole where each line of pith meets the peel, being careful not to slice deeply into the pomegranate (you want to avoid cutting through the seeds as much as possible). Using your fingers, pry pomegranate apart into its natural segments.
Fill a large bowl halfway with cold water. Working with 1 segment at a time, submerge segment in water and use fingers to gently separate seeds from outer skin and pith. Once all seeds are removed, discard outer skin, keeping seeds submerged in water (some pith may remain). Repeat with remaining segments.
Once all seeds have been removed from outer fruit skin, keep submerged under water and use fingers to separate seeds from any remaining pith and from each other. Once separated, let sit in water, untouched, until any remaining white pith separates and floats to the top of the water (seeds will remain on the bottom of the bowl), 3 to 5 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, spider, or fine-mesh strainer, collect and discard any floating pith. Drain seeds through a fine-mesh strainer and transfer to a paper towel-lined large plate or rimmed baking sheet. Gently blot dry with paper towels and discard any remaining white pith from seeds.
Use as needed or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
Make Ahead and Storage
Pomegranate seeds can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week. The arils freeze surprisingly well. Freeze in a single layer on a plastic wrap–lined large plate or sheet tray (this prevents the arils from sticking to the plate and makes it easier to collect edges of wrap and gather arils together) until firm, about 30 minutes, then transfer to an airtight container and freeze for up to 2 months.