Tuesday, September 05, 2006

How Azerbaijan will save your life....

Only three more weeks until the season begins. No, I'm not talking about hockey season puckhead! Soon it'll be pomegranate season. That's when these luscious red fruit ripen and beckon us to open their hard-shells and lustily dig into their juicy red jewels, shamelessly tearing at the fleshy pulp, as sweet scarlet dew dribbles down and makes our chins look like painted toenails. It's a ritual that doesn't flatter our manners, but one that does astoudingly brilliant things for our health.

Pomegranate juice is your very own portrait of Dorian Gray except you need to refrigerate it and it doesn't have to go in your attic.

This stuff is God's Own Medicine, landing Mike Tyson uppercuts of antioxidants onto those nasty free radicals while it unclogs your arteries and does such fantastic health things that pomegrizzle has become the shizzle in Hollywizzle, as actors anxious to perpetuate their glorious youth have started sipping it by the gallon.

And from whence cometh the fruit of hearty trees able to survive cold weather and salty soil conditions? Glad you asked. Azerbaijan, natch. Long, long ago the Azzies passed a sapling on to the the Greeks, an act only Persephone regretted after eating seven seeds in the Underworld, dooming her chances of returning to Demeter. The plant took off from there. The Bible is full of pomegranate munchers, Jewish mythology equates the fruit with prosperity while other cultures associate our dearest fruit with fertility.

The best pomegranates on this blessed Earth are lovingly plucked off trees in Goychay, (ie: Blue River) a magical province of 56 farming villages on the tilted plains at the foothills of the Caucasus mountains. Goychay sits northwest of Baku and gets refreshingly cool even in the summer. The pomegranates aren't just delicious in that slice of heaven, they also make for such a stunning bucolic backdrop that painters such as Togrul Narimanbekov did for Azerbaijani pomegrante groves what Monet did for haystacks.

Azeri farmhands will soon start propping stepladders onto century-old greyish cracked bark. They will mount and cull the round red hard-shelled fruit from branches of the 12 foot trees, and lay them into balsawood baskets. The burgundy treasures then depart the farm in boxes, which get packed into trucks and backseats of Ladas and brought to streetside market in Lenkoran, Baku and beyond.

Thanks to this pomegraphic ritual, the next time you shimmy down to that magic section of your health food store, you'll find the best and most affordable juice is from Azerbaijan. It comes in a variety of names, Sameco, ILG, Lakewood, Crown, Seqment but just look for Azerbaijan on the label and you'll get the caviar of health tonics for a low price.

If you want to go the distance, try some wine. Azerbaijan has a long tradition of viticulture - and its Azerinar pomegranate wine contains triple the antioxidants of regular ol' red wine.

And do yourself a double favour. Google other pomegranate recipes, and you'll find ways of packing even more of this miracle anti-aging concoction into your weary corpus (ie: POMEGRANATE SHERBET Sugar – 30 gr. Pomegranate juice – 40 gr. Water – 120 gr. Food-ice – 20 gr. Boil water and dissolve sugar in it. Squeeze the juice out of a pomegranate into a separate plate, add it to sherbet and cool.)

I like my pomegranate juice in the morning. My ideal day begins as I wipe the sleep from my eyes, peer at my Tag Monaco while housemaid Nigar Talibova enters my bedroom with a big cool glass of pomegranate juice. This here pomegranate enabler is, after all, a man who likes to start his day in a certain happy mood.


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