ppearance is everything with pomegranates and they must be handled gently. Smith is recommending pickers use an apple harvest belly bag and gently drop the fruit into bins with the bag’s bottom dump. Any scarring reduces the value of the fresh market fruit.

A rule of thumb is that 50 percent to 55 percent of the pomegranate fruit on a tree is harvestable for the premium, fresh market. The rest of the fruit is harvested off grade or harvested for arils or the seeds. A third marketing opportunity is the juice. However, juice prices have fallen off recently.

Removing pomegranate rind to get to the seeds is messy. A new machine from Israel separates the pomegranate arils (seeds) for the fresh market. These are packed in plastic clamshells for retailing. Smith expects soft-seeded Angel Red arils to be available next year.

Pomegranate arils can be eaten fresh, used in salads, desserts, sorbets, soups, meat sauces; or as a garnish and in sauces.

Pomegranate is also available in powder form.

Dennis McFarlin, licensed PCA with Gar Tootelian, an independent agchem and fertilizer retailer in Reedley, Calif., told growers that pomegranates are not easy to grow. He scouts about 800 acres of pomegranates in Tulare County.