Goychay is quite a ways from Baku - the trip there was about 3 hours long, and started very early. This was fine on the way there, when the sun was shining and there was scenery to look at. I found the landscape weirdly familiar, as would anyone who’s driven across the prairies.
But back to the pomegranates. After we were fortified with bread and qaymaq, Sabina let us loose at the festival site and we agreed to meet up again four hours later. Even at the time I suspected that four hours was an ambitious amount of time to spend at a small local festival, but off I went. The site was the local outdoor stadium, and when we arrived at about noon the place was already bustling. Around the outside of the running track there were dozens of folding tables set up with people crowded around so I pushed in to see what the fuss was about.
It took about half an hour to make a circuit of the track, and that included stopping the buy a small keychain souvenir half way around. (A hand carved wooden Maiden Tower, 4 AZN.) I also stopped at a stall to pick up some shower gel and hand soap made by a company that does really nice pomegranate bath products and was having a big big sale. Still, even after lingering at the pomegranate wine stall (No samples! Damn!) and doubling back to pick up Sabina and ask her a bunch of questions, there was still a LOT of time to kill, leaving me plenty of time to wander through another area full of food stalls, and, of course, people selling pomegranates.
But here’s the thing that really struck me about the pomegranate festival. It was very… homogenous. In a place with such a remarkable bounty/glut of pomegranates, I’d expected to see people doing all kinds of wonderful and interesting things with them. Pomegranate cakes and cookies. Pomegranate molasses and jam. Pomegranate t-shirts. Pomegranate hats. Pomegranate lip gloss. All the kinds of things you’d expect from a 21st century harvest festival in the western world. Instead, it felt like everyone was doing the same thing. You could buy pomegranates in many different varieties, or pomegranate juice, or nar sherab. With very few exceptions, that was it. The same was true with the food stalls. I'm used to seeing everything from cupcakes to jerk chicken at a festival site. Here, you could get kebabs. Or kebabs. Or, for a change, you could have a kebab. True, they were doing both the minced meat lule kebab and the chunks-of-meat on a skewer kind as well. And there were a couple of different meats available. Also, very popular among the kids was an offering of a large plain bun split open and filled with a cold wiener sliced long ways into quarters, with some kind of red sauce added (I’m guessing nar sherab, perhaps?). It reminded me of that popular kid’s treat - cold uncooked wiener. And there were sweets, all pre-packaged. And tea. Very little diversity of any kind.
Here’s the trick:
1. Place a large mixing bowl in the sink and fill with water.
2. Using the tip of a sharp paring knife, score through the outside skin of the pomegranate along its “ribs”. These can be a bit tricky to identity, but usually you can see from the top that the fruit is not actually spherical but very slightly faceted. Score on the edges of the facets.
4. Keeping each sections under water, work the seeds loose from the pith and let them sink to the bottom of the bowl.
6. Once you’ve got all the seeds out, there will still be some seeds with bits of pith on them. I find if you rub the collection of seeds between your hands most of that comes loose and floats to the top.
7. Drain the water off, along with all the floating bits of pith, leaving a bowl full of tidy seeds, ready to eat. I store them in a tupperware container in the fridge and they stay fine for days.
8. Send a donation to Go Stay Work Play Live for making your life better. (This step is optional but encouraged for maximum karmic benefit.)
And that is truly as much as I can say about pomegranates.