Garden of Eden

Some scholars believe that the pomegranate was the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, the apple that Eve offered to Adam, to their demise. This could very well be. Pomegranates have their origins in Persia and hold symbolic importance to cultures throughout the Middle…

Garden of Eden

Some scholars believe that the pomegranate was the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, the apple that Eve offered to Adam, to their demise. This could very well be.

Pomegranates have their origins in Persia and hold symbolic importance to cultures throughout the Middle East, India and the Mediterranean. The beautiful orbs and their glistening vermillion arils protected within are known to symbolize righteousness, fruitfulness, fertility, and prosperity.

What if I told you that I visited a garden of Eden, just a three and a half hour drive away from the Bay Area, in Central California?

I was given the very unique opportunity to join a group of amazing food bloggers for the POM Wonderful Harvest Tour. In just its second year, this remarkable outreach to the food community is an innovative way for POM Wonderful to provide a first-hand glimpse into the world behind their juice.

As you know, I enjoy POM’s pomegranate juice, and had a blast contributing to the POM Wonderful Summer Menu Series just a few months ago. I couldn’t wait to see how it all happens, close up, at the factory and in the orchards. The weekend turned out to be more fun than I imagined, full of learning, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and new friendships.

Factory Tour

A total of ten food bloggers, myself included, traveled to Central California from all across the country to participate in the Harvest Tour. For me, it was a simple road trip from the Bay Area, but we had bloggers that flew in from as far as the East Coast. Two of them actually write Korean blogs, though they are based in the United States! The first evening, we spent getting to know one another better, as food bloggers tend to do, over food. And by the following morning, we were ready to go and check out the POM Wonderful factory.

But first things first. Hard hats. Hair nets. Oh so glamorous! And we can’t forget the tee shirts! Even the latter, it turned out, had some protective function, as we got our up-close look at the juicing process. Once we got our hair net and hard hat giggles (and pictures) out of the way, we were ready to explore. Just a few weeks into the harvest season, the factory was a hubbub of activity.

Beverage Plant Manager Todd Crosswell first showed us how their distinct “double bubble” bottles are made. For me, I was most surprised that they produced their own bottles; I had assumed that they outsourced that process. The technology was amazing, and it was so fascinating to see how 105 degrees of heat and 300 PSI of pressure transformed slender, test-tube shaped plastics into their signature bottles.

We were able to witness the bottles as they went from shaping to labeling to sanitizing. Consider this: it takes 8 hours to completely sanitize the bottling equipment. That’s a full night’s sleep (if we’re lucky) for you and me.

That day, they were bottling their Pomegranate Peach Passion White Tea, and the factory was perfumed with the tropical aromas.

Along the way, amid all the stainless steel and machinery, reverse osmosis and mind-boggling technology, there was still some beauty to be found.

The pomegranate juice pressing was even more fascinating. Photography was not permitted on that portion of the tour, but believe me when I say, it was simply amazing to watch. Tons of pomegranates are pressed, rinds and all, in a three-step pressing process, extracting the most amazing, pure juice.


Only the best fruits are used, but nothing goes to waste. Even the pressed flesh of the pomegranates are repurposed and sent to cows for a healthy addition to their diets. Just as truckloads of freshly picked pomegranates were being brought in, truckloads of used pomegranates were off to return to nature.

While most of us are familiar with the juice segment of POM Wonderful’s business, the fresh fruit sometimes get overlooked. We met with Brad Paris, GM and VP of Global Produce, to see the meticulous standards they use to select only the best fruits for their produce segment. Each pomegranate, and I mean, every single one, is photographed up to 30 times by cameras, and the photos are compared to a set of standards. The pomegranates are sorted accordingly based on color, quality, size and various criteria. And of course, each one is subsequently hand examined before it makes it into their boxes for shipping.

So, of the fruit that is harvested, about 50% goes directly to the juicing plant. The remaining 50% are examined again via photographs, with only 25% making it into the selection for distribution. How’s that for picky?

A POM Inspired Dinner

Pictured from front left (clockwise): Paula of bell’alimento, Olga of Mango & Tomato, Andrea of POM Wonderful, Yujin of The Patio-Yujin, Mary of Deep South Dish, Gina of Skinny Taste, Julie of Peanut Butter Fingers, myself, Rosa of Rokimsa, and Rachael of La Fuji Mama. Photo courtesy of Yujin Sanders. {Not pictured: Nicole of Pinch My Salt}

Before I go on, I wanted to touch on one notable aspect of the weekend. Attending the Harvest Tour gave me an opportunity to meet such a fantastic group of food bloggers. I’m not sure what was in the POMegranate juice, but there was definitely a lovely camaraderie that developed amongst not only the bloggers but the POM Wonderful hosts, Andrea Scott and Mike Neth, as well. Everyone was just so open and welcoming, and we all genuinely had so much fun.

That evening, after a long day at the factory, we switched our hard hats, hairnets and splattered POM shirts for some prettier attire. A POM-inspired dinner awaited us at Fleming’s Steakhouse that evening, each dish reflecting the various dimensions of pomegranate: from the freshness of the arils in the Warm Spinach Salad with goat cheese and pancetta, to the Petite Filet’s luscious pomegranate reduction, and the pomegranate infused Creme Brulee. With our tummies well fed and our hearts happy with new friendship, we were ready for the next day of the Harvest Tour.

Orchard Tour

There are over 18,000 acres of pomegranates in POM Wonderful’s orchards. So, how did we access them? By plane! The group divided into two small aircrafts  – one seating seven, the other four – for a birds-eye view of the orchards. Joel Wheelock, corporate pilot for POM Wonderful, was an amazing resource, and he gave us an aerial tour of the orchard’s pomegranate, almond and pistachio trees.

We touched down on a landing strip in the middle of the orchards, and I just had to include a little video of the landing. The clip was taken with my dinky iPhone, but I wanted you to get a feel for the expanse of the farmlands of San Joaquin Valley. You will see Mary seated across from me, and Julie up front at the co-pilot’s seat.

We were like children in a candy store as we wandered down the dusty roads into the orchards. The pomegranates greeted us like beautiful ornaments on a Christmas tree, ripe and ready for picking. Since they are prone to sunburn, the fruit is given an application of sunscreen, which adds to the effect of a snowy wonderland.

There were a few that were still young, and I was excited to catch a glimpse of unripe pomegranates. Aren’t they equally as gorgeous? The pomegranates are only picked when they are perfectly ripe, each one plucked by hand.

We all got to pick our own pomegranates, and under the guidance of  Head Ranch and Farm Manager, Bernard Puget, we carefully selected the most promising specimens. Although POM Wonderful does have exacting standards for their fresh fruit, you may be comforted to know that some of the best tasting pomegranates are actually not always the prettiest. Those with blemishes and a heavy weight promised delicious arils within. We just snacked our way around the trees.

Just steps away were the most gorgeous pistachios!

We were able to sample them raw, without any roasting, and it was such a treat. If you’ve ever had a raw or boiled peanut, the texture is fairly similar.

Monterey and Nonpareil almonds are grown as well! Unlike pistachios, the almonds are dry harvested, so they were perfectly ready for snacking, right off the tree. Pictured here are Monterey almonds, their little fuzzy cloaks uncurling from the brittle shells.

Once in a while, you encounter a twin yolked almond!

Before we knew it, the morning of fruit picking and orchard snacking swiftly came to a sad end. The last treat of the day was a low flying adventure on the planes back to Fresno airport, where I was able to enjoy some time in the cockpit! As we hovered over Lost Hills and thrilled in aerial maneuvers, we dipped closer to the orchards, watching the brisk harvesting efforts below. We saw acres and acres of the food that feeds our country, and the California Aqueduct, providing an artery of water to our fellow Californians to the south. The experience had been more powerful than any of us had expected, and I came away with a great respect for the land and those who work hard to feed us. I was so happy to be able to share this experience with such an amazing group of women, and look forward to nurturing the friendships that were planted that weekend. And I am so happy to share this experience with all of you.

My heartfelt thanks to Andrea Scott, Mike Neth, and everyone at POM Wonderful for giving us such an unforgettable experience.  I will treasure it always.

Comments

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Olga @ MangoTomato

    It was great to meet you and share the mini plane with you :) The photo of you holding a pomegranate and standing by the pistachio tree is beautiful!

    Reply
    • Liren

      Thanks Olga! I still can’t get over the beauty of those orchards. Glad we got to experience it together!

    • Liren

      Thank you Mary! I have been having such fun reliving the experience through everyone’s posts, too!

  2. Spicy Green Mango

    Liren! Just amazing! I am so happy you got a chance to experience this and share it with the rest of us who are salivating over your POMegranates! Your pictures in the orchards are just amazing! Wonderful and I absolutely agree that the funkier looking ones always taste the best!

    Reply
    • Liren

      So glad you enjoyed it! I can just imagine how you would have captured the experience with your camera and skills! And yes, it’s always the funky ones that taste the best :)

    • Liren

      Aw, thanks Gina! I can’t wait to see you soon! Two weeks!

  3. Susi

    Liren, what a great opportunity, it looks like so much fun and how wonderful you got to hang out with so many amazing bloggers :o) You took the most amazing pictures, what a feast for the eyes!
    Also congratulations on advancing to the next round on PFB :o) You so deserved it!

    Reply
    • Liren

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post, Susi! And thank you so much for all the Project Food Blog support – it means a lot to me :)

  4. norma

    What a great post and I learned quite a bit. In Puerto Rico they call it the “devil’s apple”…..

    Reply
    • Liren

      Oh, “devil;s apple” – how fitting!

  5. Asha@FSK

    WOW! What a fabulous time!!! POM is pretty awesome! I went for a POM inspired dinner here and we had a blast! :)

    Reply
  6. A Canadian Foodie

    What a thorough and informative and incredible post! Thank you! Bravo! I love the beginning. Poms are definitely seen as symbols of fertility and often painted in Renaissance paintings to provide hope for a childless woman or to demonstrated hope for the future, or to symbolize her abundant fertility.
    I am so appreciative of your detail and the wonderful pics. The dinner one is incredible of all of you, too!
    :)
    Valerie

    Reply
    • Liren

      Valerie, you were certainly missed, and I hope all our posts having given you a taste of the trip!

  7. Jean

    Liren, love all the pictures! You made me feel like I took the POM Harvest tour with you. But my favorite is the one of you in the co-pilot seat–how fun! You looked liked you belong in that seat. :-)

    Thanks for this wonderful report. It looks lots of fun. :-)

    Reply
    • Liren

      I have to admit, Jean, sitting in the copilot seat was definitely one of *the* highlights of the trip!!!

  8. Lisa { AuthenticSuburbanGourmet }

    Liren – stunning photos!! I actually felt like I was on the trip with you through your post – what a fantastic experience. Love the photo of you in the pilot seat – perhaps a future pilot?? The dinner sounded amazing, especially the creme brulee. What an amazing group of bloggers that you were surrounded by. Thank you for sharing such a special experience!! Go POM!!

    Reply
    • Liren

      Lisa, don’t tempt me! I have always wanted to take flying lessons, but I’ll settle for living vicariously through you and Jean :)

  9. Andrea@POM

    Liren, thank you for capturing the entire experience SO well; as a POM-ite, I felt so welcome into the community of all you food bloggers too and know I’ve made friends and lasting relationships; I learned a lot from all of you as well! Until our next meeting. :)

    Reply
    • Liren

      Andrea, it was so good to finally meet you, and I will never forget that weekend! Twas wonderful to share the experience with such a great group of women (+ Mike!).

  10. Angela@spinachtiger

    Thank you for a lovely tour of my favorite fruit. Also, I didn’t know almonds grew with those little green jackets. Cute. I love those too!

    Reply
    • Liren

      I didn’t know about the almond’s hulls, either! They were like little fur shrugs :)

  11. Monet

    What a lovely post…with a stunningly talented and beautiful group of bloggers. I have enjoyed POM juices on many occasions, and I so enjoyed learning about what goes into making one of my favorite drinks. From the bottles to the actual orchards, each of your photographs was informative and visually appealing. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  12. denise @ quickies on the dinner table

    A lovely post Liren – so informative, so thorough and oh, so many gorgeous photos!! I’ve never seen a pistachio tree before and they are beautiful!! Love the photo of you under the tree – I’ve never realised it before, but you bear a striking resemblance to a cousin of mine!!!

    Reply
    • Liren

      Hi Denise! Hmmm, so I resemble a cousin? How fun! I’ve always been hesitant to post photos of myself, but I had so much fun on this trip, I couldn’t help get on the other side of the camera :)

  13. Emme

    Your pictures are gorgeous! Thanks for sharing you wonderful experience with us! -Emme

    Reply
  14. Becky

    What an amazing experience for you and your fellow bloggers. From the factory to the orchard, and the mini-plane, I felt like I was part of your group{)
    Such a beautiful and complete post.

    Reply
  15. Adelina

    Thanks for the tour… love the photos and the background on POM. I am also a big fan of fresh pistachios. They are soooo addicting.

    Reply
Kitchen Confidante®

Kitchen Confidante uses cookies to serve you the best possible experience. By using our website, we understand that you accept their use and agree to our cookie policy.

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close