The sweet, tart and juicy arils of a pomegranate are a real treat—but when you buy the whole fruit, you do have to put in a fair bit of effort to extract these health-boosting and palate-pleasing little gems. Which is why it’s so upsetting to go through all that hard work only to be rewarded with an unripe piece of fruit. Fortunately, we’ve got the full scoop on how to tell if a pomegranate is ripe, so you can avoid that scenario entirely.
How to Tell If a Pomegranate Is Ripe
According to the experts over at the Pomegranate Council, the weight of the fruit is one of the most effective ways to suss out the ripeness of a pomegranate. A ripe fruit will be plump with delicious juice, and therefore considerably heftier than its unripe counterpart. So the next time you’re at the grocery store, weigh your options (literally) and bring home the heaviest pomegranate of the bunch for the biggest pay-off. (Hint: You can even use the scale in the store to be sure you’ve found a winner.)
Another tell-tale sign of ripeness is the shape of the fruit: A ripe pomegranate will be flatter at the stem and blossom ends, with sides that have a more squared appearance. In other words, the more perfectly round a pomegranate looks, the less likely it is to be ripe.
The Pomegranate Council tells us that pretty much any piece of fruit you encounter in the produce section will have been picked when it was relatively ripe. As such, assessing the color of the fruit will only get you so far when you’re trying to pick the best pomegranate at the store. That said, if you’re plucking fruit from the tree, it’s good to know that a truly unripe pomegranate will have some green on it, whereas a fruit that’s ripe and ready to pick will be uniformly medium to deep red in color.
4. Skin texture
As pomegranates ripen, their skin takes on a soft, leathery quality. If you’re unsure, you can always do a fingernail test on the piece of fruit in question; the skin of a ripe pomegranate will be easy to scratch. For this same reason, you needn’t be put off by minor abrasions on the surface of the fruit. In fact, if you see cracks in the skin of a pomegranate (also called splitting), it’s actually a good sign—the result of pressure exerted from the ample juice within.
5. Sound when tapped
As with color, sound when tapping a pomegranate is more helpful for someone who’s checking in on the ripening progress of fruits that are still on the tree. That said, an unripe pomegranate will have a hollower sound than one that is ripe and bursting with juice.
How to Store Pomegranates
Once you’ve scored a beautifully ripe piece of fruit, you’ll need to know how to keep it in prime condition until you’re ready to dig in. Per the Pomegranate Council, when kept whole and stored in plastic bags in the fridge, your fruit will stay fresh for up to three months. (Impressive, right?) For short-term storage, you can also let your pomegranates hang out on the counter—just keep them out of direct sunlight and they’ll stay tasty for up to four days. Finally, if you’ve already cracked open a pomegranate and mined the treasure within, uneaten arils can be refrigerated for up to three days—and that’s more than enough time to use ‘em up, since these gems can be enjoyed at breakfast (Psst: pomegranate juice is a super healthy way to start the day), lunch, dinner and even cocktail hour.
Now that you’ve picked the ripest pomegranate at the store, here’s how to use up those beautiful ruby gems.
3. Pomegranate-maple Glazed Lamb Chops
This mouthwatering recipe gets a double dose of our favorite ruby red fruit: the pomegranate-maple glaze is made with pomegranate molasses (available in the international aisle at most grocery stores) and the finishing dish is topped with pomegranate arils.