Great news – the Wonderful pomegranate is back. “Wonderful” is actually the name of the variety most commonly found in

North America.

These fantastical fruits can pop up in early fall, but the choice ones--red, ripe, and heavy with juice--grace shelves October through January.

I have always loved pomegranates; they look like science fiction and taste like juicy Sweetarts. They also pack a nice dose of vitamin C, potassium, and antioxidants.

Each pomegranate is made up of an outer membrane surrounding hundreds of jewel-like juice-filled sacks called arils. Each aril contains a tiny, edible seed. In recipes, the aril and seed are collectively referred to as seeds.

Pomegranates have gotten a bad rap over the years as being messy and difficult to work with. It is true that the brilliant magenta juice stains easily, but this simple trick of the trade will minimize any fuss:

Fill a large bowl with water and place it in the sink. Hold a washed pomegranate under the surface of the water and cut it in half with a paring knife. Using your fingers, gently pull away a piece of the outer membrane to expose the arils underneath.

Gently rub the arils with the tip of your thumb – they will easily release from the membrane and sink to the bottom of the bowl. Continue this process, and after about 5 minutes you will have a bowl full of ready-to-eat pomegranate seeds and not one juice stain.  Discard the pieces of outer membrane and drain the water through a strainer to collect the seeds.

Pomegranate seeds are great for eating out of hand, sprinkling on salads and desserts, or juicing for anything from champagne cocktails to a ruby glaze for pork.

If you have never treated yourself to a fresh pomegranate, now is the time!