Since ancient times, the pomegranate (Punica granatum L) has been grown for its fruits and for ornamental purposes.
Excellent flavour, nutritive value and medicinal properties of the fruit prove its potential for value-addition.
The pomegranate fruit has organic acids, vitamin C, polysaccharides, essential minerals and antioxidants.
It also has compounds with antioxidant activity, including ascorbic acid, flavonoids and phenolic.
The nutritious nature of the fruit has played a role in its increased consumption, especially in the form of juice and other processed products.
The drive for healthier diets has led to a rise in demand for convenient and fresh food produce, free of additives.
This fruit can be processed into fresh arils, juice, squash, molasses, juice concentrates, frozen seeds, jam, jelly, marmalades, grenadine, wine, seeds in syrup, powder, rind powder and seed oil.
Pomegranate contains 78 per cent juice and 22 per cent seed. The seeds, along with arils, are usually blended and juice extracted. The juice has excellent flavour, fragrance and taste.
Producing juice from pomegranate arils is the most common method of value-addition. The juice can still be processed into squash, syrup, nectar, jelly or concentrate.
Squash is ready to serve in the ratio of 1:4 — one part of squash with four parts of water.
The juice can also be used to provide flavour and colour to other products, food and dessert. The antioxidant properties of the juice make it suitable for the production of supplements and nutraceuticals.
For packaging of the juice, glass containers are preferred. These promote the retention of anthocyanin, vitamin C and flavour.
Jam is made by concentrating pomegranate. This is by adding sugar and heating the mixture slowly. The finished product is thick and can be used like any other type of jam. Jelly and marmalade can be prepared from the juice.
Pomegranate molasses is made from cooked juice. It is thick and syrupy, has a tangy flavour and is dark. Its sweetness comes from the concentration of the natural sugars of the fruit. It is used in chutneys, curries, salad dressings and as a meat tenderiser.
Pomegranate concentrate is made from fresh juice and is generally free from added sugar or preservatives. It is promoted as a health drink.
HAS ANTIPROLIFERATIVE PROPERTIES
Pomegranate syrup is commercially sold as grenadine and is used as a flavour for alcoholic and soft drinks. Grenadine is a light pomegranate syrup prepared by mixing juice and sugar. The syrup can be pasteurised.
Hard candy can be prepared from concentrated pomegranate juice.
The juice can also be used to make wine. The pasteurised juice is fermented with starter wine yeast. Fermentation is allowed to continue until the desired level of alcohol is obtained.
Pomegranate powder is prepared from arils that have been dried and milled. The powder is rich in ellagic acid — a phenol antioxidant found in some fruits and vegetables.
It has antiproliferative properties.
One can also make minimally processed (ready-to-eat) pomegranate products like fresh arils. This is an avenue for the utilisation of the lower grade fruits with pre and post-harvest defects like cracks and splits.
Minimal processing involves washing to reduce the initial microbial load and hygienic packaging.
The use of honey has been explored in preserving the arils and other cut fruits.
Dipping the arils in honey for five minutes can increase their shelf life for 10 days. These also have a nice aroma compared to those treated with water.
After preparing the arils in the same way as the minimally processed ones, they can be packed in containers with syrup, then frozen.
Canned arils are prepared by putting them in syrup and packing them in tins. The tins are then heated, sealed and sterilised.
The arils may also be preserved in vinegar with an acidity of five per cent. The resulting product is brown pomegranate arils.
A product called anardana is made by drying arils from sour pomegranate types. It is mainly used in curries, chutney and other culinary preparations.
Processing involves cleaning, extraction of arils, sun drying and packaging. All parts of the pomegranate tree can be processed.
Ms Ndungi works in the Department of Human Nutrition, Egerton University.
Tree can grow almost anywhere
Pomegranate is a fruit-producing shrub that originated in Asia and south-eastern Europe. The plant grows to a height of 12 feet, but can extend to 15 to 20 feet.
Pomegranate trees can withstand low temperatures while also thriving in arid and semi arid conditions.
Once fully established, the tree tolerates a variety of conditions. They do well in many soils and are resistant to a number of pests and diseases.
The trees produce fruits after two-and-a-half to three years and remain productive for more than a decade.
Pomegranate varieties include parfianka, desertnyi, sienevyi, angel red, sin pepe, ariana, kashmir blend, gissarskii rozovyi, wonderful, purple sunset, granada, eversweet, francis, golden globe, shades of purple and al sirin nar.
The juice is rich in vitamin B and C, potassium and fibre.