Monday, November 21, 2016

Practice mindfulness - eat a pomegranate!

Pomegranates. Do you eat them? I do.

During the last few months of every year, pomegranate fruits begin to appear in the produce bins at local grocery stores, and I eagerly buy them. I don’t add them to my shopping cart just because they’re pretty, although the shiny, round, hard-skinned, red orbs are attractive enough to be Christmas tree ornaments. I hand the cashier money because I like the way pomegranates taste.




The edible part of this Middle Eastern native fruit are its seeds, also known as arils. Cutting a pomegranate in half reveals masses of small, dark-colored pea-sized arils, each one covered with a slippery, juicy pulp. Biting into a spoonful of seeds yields a mouthful of sweetness tempered with just the right amount of tartness to produce a flavorful punch combined with a satisfying crunch as the seeds are chewed.

With 200 to 1,400 seeds per fruit — pomegranates vary from the size of a small navel orange to the girth of a medium-sized grapefruit — a single pomegranate lasts for about a week in our two-person household. Maybe less if I fail to practice self-control.

As much as I look forward to pomegranate season each year, I wasn’t always a fan. When I was growing up, I recall neither eating one nor even trying one when I was a young adult. My introduction to this seasonal delicacy happened within the last decade when, out of curiosity, I decided to give one a try.

I’ve always been curious about different foods. When I see an unfamiliar fruit or vegetable in the produce bins, my interest is piqued even if I have no idea what the item tastes like or how it’s prepared. These days, learning about unfamiliar foods is easy, thanks to Google and YouTube. Type ‘How to eat a pomegranate’ into the computer’s search bar and more than a million instructional videos and Web page results appear.

I’ve watched a good many ‘how-to’ videos on the subject, but my preferred method remains a slow and pleasant process by the kitchen sink in which seeding a pomegranate forces me to practice patience.

While standing over the sink, I cut the fruit in half and proceed to squeeze the juice of one cut half at a time into a large bowl. As the juice drips into the bowl, numerous seeds fall in as well — but not all the seeds. To extract the remaining arils, I use my fingers, which is where patience comes into play. Poking and probing dislodges the seeds. Then, after they’ve fallen into the bowl, I poke around some more to find and remove any white membranes that have adhered to the seeds.

If I’m not careful and fail to focus on what I’m doing, seeds will fly off, and juice will splatter everywhere. However, if I pay attention to the task at hand, my kitchen stays tidy as tasty morsels fill my bowl.

Seeding a pomegranate promotes mindfulness. Separating the seeds from the spongy, white membrane in which they reside takes time. It takes me about 15 minutes from start to finish to fill a bowl with edible seeds and juice from a single pomegranate. Fifteen minutes is not a lot of time, but in our hyper-active lives, we’re often too preoccupied to allow ourselves even a quarter-hour of contemplative practice.

That’s all the more reason to do so, especially during this time of year when pomegranates are plentiful in the produce section. There are many ways to practice patience but few provide the added benefit of tasty, nutritious fruit to eat when practice time is done.

Try a pomegranate. Pick the biggest, reddest, firmest fruit you can find. When you’re ready to eat it, settle down by the kitchen sink for 15 minutes of quiet concentration. Relax. Have fun. Focus on what you’re doing, and enjoy the moment. When you’re done, you’ll be rewarded for your effort by not only having a clearer mind but by having a big bowl of pomegranate seeds to eat by the spoonful.

Delicious — mindfulness doesn’t get much better than this.

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