CASA GRANDE -- Pomegranates are in season in Pinal County and much of Arizona. This year, my pomegranate tree — one of the plants in my garden that thrives on my neglect — produced more than 40 of the sweet and tangy fruits.

Even if you don’t have a tree in your backyard, pomegranates are easy to find and fun to experiment with.

I had so many pomegranates that this year, for the first time, I spent a weekend juicing pomegranate seeds and making delicious juice, which tasted much better than the pricey juice purchased in the grocery store.

Pomegranates are healthy, low fat and fun to experiment with.

While the skin of the pomegranate is inedible, the seeds are sweet and juicy jewels. Each pomegranate can have hundreds of seeds, which are great sources for fiber, vitamins and other good stuff.

While I gave away as many of my pomegranates as I could, I removed the seeds from the rest. After juicing them, I used much of the juice to make pomegranate molasses, a sweet and tangy syrup that can be drizzled over ice cream, waffles or pancakes or added to beverages. The syrup can also be the base of a delicious and sweet salad dressing. The syrup can also be made using store-bought pomegranate juice.

Pomegranate juice is made by juicing the seeds. While it is not difficult, it can be time consuming and it takes a lot of pomegranates to produce juice.

From about three good-sized pomegranates, I was able to extract about half a cup of juice, after a rather long session of blending, straining and re-straining. But it was great juice and well worth the effort.

And while I juiced most of the seeds from the pomegranates my tree produced, I saved some seeds too to try planting.

We had a great time watching our pomegranate tree throughout the year go through its phases, emerging from its winter sleep to produce beautiful spring blooms that turned into delicious fruit. But I think our backyard tree needs a friend, so with any luck, some of the seeds we saved this year will produce another tree and eventually, more fruit.

How to juice a pomegranate

Cut pomegranate into quarters and remove seeds, placing them in a bowl. To make seed removal easier, this can be done in a bowl of water.

After seeds are removed from fruit, cover seeds with water and remove the inedible pieces of fruit that float to the top.

Strain the seeds.

Working in small batches, place seeds in a blender and blend on low speed for about 20 seconds — just long enough to open the seeds and release the delicious juice.

Pour into a mesh strainer and strain the liquid into a cup. Using a spoon or spatula, press the pulp against the strainer to remove as much juice as possible from the pulp.

Pomegranate molasses (syrup)

1 quart pomegranate juice (fresh or store-bought)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

½ cup sugar

Place all ingredients into a pan and over low heat, simmer for about 90 minutes to 2 hours, stirring every 20 minutes. When the juice has reduced by about half and thickened into a syrup, the molasses is done. Pour into a container and allow to cool.

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Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at mstaude@pinalcentral.com.

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