Pomegranate trees need plenty of heat to grow and ripen fruit. Most pomegranates grown in the United States come from California and are in season from the end of September through November. Luckily, they store well and are often available through December and even into January some years.
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Look for plump, rounded pomegranates (they dry out as they're stored, and older specimens will have started to shrink a bit) that feel heavy for their size and are free of cuts, slashes, or bruises. While you don't want cuts or soft spots, pomegranates that have naturally occurring splits are fine!
Pomegranates do not ripen after they're picked, and yet bruise relatively easily when ripe. This means a lot of commercial pomegranates are picked a bit under-ripe. You are much more likely to find truly ripe, fresh pomegranates at farmers markets, co-ops that get deliveries directly from farmers, and farm stands.
Pomegranates store beautifully. Keep them on a countertop for up to a week or two or wrapped loosely in plastic and refrigerated for a few weeks or more. You can easily dry pomegranates to use as decoration by simply leaving them in a well-aerated, cool, dry spot for a few weeks.
The seeds (really arils - flesh-covered seeds) can be kept in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to a week, and frozen up to a year. Note: defrosted arils are a bit mushy so they work in cooked recipes, but aren't great to eat out-of-hand.
The edible part of a pomegranate is its arils (flesh-covered seeds). Separating the 800 arils that average in each pomegranate from the peel and internal white membrane is a bit of a task, but not a complicated one:
Each pomegranate yields about 3/4 cup of arils or 1/2 juice.