The Foodie

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What’s Fresh in Mid-October: Pomegranates, Spinach, and Quince

October 14, 2008
by Erin Harris
Entertain your taste buds this month with juicy pomegranates, hearty spinach and tart quince. Each, with its own robust flavor and vivid color, ups the ante on  any dish, sweet or savory. Try pomegranates in a spicy Mexican meal, spinach for breakfast or quince in a classic spread. You’ll wish October would never end.

Pomegranates

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Pomegranates originated in Persia; the name derives from the medieval French “pome garnete,” or “seeded apple.” pomegranates possess a spiky crown and shiny, leathery skin. Inside are hundreds of arils, juicy sacs surrounding the seeds. A video from YouTube explains the tricky process of cutting and seeding the fruit. According to the Nibble, whole pomegranates do not ripen after picking and therefore can be refrigerated in a sealed bag for up to three months.

WebMD suggests that pomegranate juice may be able to reverse atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, although there is no direct evidence that it prevents heart attacks. Nonetheless, a handful of pomegranate seeds sprinkled on yogurt or into a salad probably can’t hurt, and will taste good at the very least.

A specialty of Puebla, Chiles en Nogada celebrates the colors of Mexico’s flag. A roasted green poblano chile pepper is stuffed with a picadillo of shredded pork, fruit, tomatoes and spices, then blanketed in a creamy white walnut sauce and topped with vibrant, deep red pomegranate seeds.

Spinach

Versatile, tender and slightly bitter, spinach also originally hails from Persia, or modern-day Iran. According to the Culinary Media Network, it was the favorite vegetable of Florence’s Catherine de Medici, wife to King Henry II of France. Since then, French dishes featuring spinach are known as “a la Florentine.” The small, delicate leaves of baby spinach are tasty when eaten raw. Savoy spinach is characterized by dark green, crinkly leaves and best purchased fresh, not bagged, while flat or smooth-leaved spinach is often sold canned or frozen. When buying spinach, keep in mind that it will shrink considerably when cooked, due to its high water content.

Spinach-loving Popeye is credited with a 33 percent increase in U.S. consumption of the vegetable during the 1930s. Unfortunately, he also helped propagate an enduring myth about spinach’s iron content. A misplaced decimal in 1870 led people to believe that spinach contained 10 times more iron than it actually does. In fact, spinach barely contains more iron per serving than broccoli. It does, however, feature loads of other vitamins and minerals, such as lutein, which boosts eye health, and bone-protecting magnesium. The BBC’s h2g2 points out that spinach is classified in the U.S. as one of the 12 foods most likely to carry pesticide residues, so buy organic or be sure to wash leaves thoroughly.

Watch Mr. Breakfast throw together an easy spinach quiche in this short, funny video on YouTube. Spices like ground mustard and cayenne pepper give the “beautiful menagerie” a little punch while heaps of Swiss and cheddar cheese round out the elegant, flavorful and filling quiche, an asset at any meal.

Quince

Like an apple in a potato costume, quince is lumpy, bumpy and awkward to look at. Because of its sour taste and firm texture, it is usually not eaten raw, unless you can find the slightly sweeter variety, apple quince. However, the fruit is perfect for making jams and jellies. Quince was considered a symbol of fertility in ancient Greece and, according to Vegetarians in Paradise, legend has it that “women who indulge their appetites in generous quantities of quinces will give birth to industrious and highly intelligent children.” Look for a fruit with pale yellow skin that emits a strong, floral aroma when ripe.

Rich in vitamin C and potassium, quince offers many of the same health benefits as its cousins, the apple and pear. Studies have observed the effects of potassium on lowering high blood pressure while vitamin C may decrease the risk of heart disease. According to the Lifestyle Lounge, quince also aids in digestion and could help lower cholesterol levels.

To experience quince as the Spanish have been enjoying it for ages, try your hand at membrillo. The firm, sweet paste, typically served with cheese, is a classic recipe and a cinch to make. You need just two ingredients to recreate the delicacy at home. Delicious Days provides the recipe and marvels at the “witchcraft” that takes place during cooking as the quince transforms from a light orange color to a “lively” deep red-orange shade.
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