While many fruits have been bred to be uniformly perfect, calibrated for size and easy picking, the pomegranate, a stubbornly archaic fruit, resists big retailers’ body fascist cosmetic specifications.

Its eye-catching spherical form and crimson hue have been celebrated for millennia. Along with the tulip, the pomegranate is a leitmotif of Ottoman art. One ancient Egyptian hieroglyph shows a couple harvesting papyrus, with pomegranate trees below.

In ancient Egypt, pomegranates were buried with the dead to aid their passage to the afterlife. It’s thought that this fruit was domesticated in Iran about 8,000 years ago. Stubbornly, pomegranates haven’t changed much, if at all, since.

New season’s pomegranates start appearing in our independent food shops in late autumn, spattered with irregularities, and of variable depth of colour, but always beauteous to behold.

To my mind, the most mature and magnificent ones come from Turkey and Iran in November, although Pakistan also has a good crop. Look out for them in Middle Eastern and Asian grocers.

Avoid the smaller, girly-pink specimens – usually from Spain – that supermarkets sell, a pallid apology for the real thing. Walk past those smooth, thick-skinned, prissy, modernised specimens, picked immature.

For ripeness and toothsome imperial purple juice, choose large pomegranates with deep red, mottled, slightly matt, thin, dry skin that has settled into a more angular shape, with slightly sunken sides.

Poet Imtiaz Dharker describes the pomegranate as

“a magic fruit”…

“So when you split it open, be prepared for the jewels of the world to tumble out, more precious than garnets, more lustrous than rubies, lit as if from inside.”

Like her, I never cease to be thrilled by the jewel-like seeds and magenta juice. Nor do I ever become bored with what it brings to the mouth, that juicy sweetness, tempered by a slightly bitter, tannic note, and slight astringency.

In her poem, How to Cut a Pomegranate, Dharker writes that “the juice tasted of gardens I had never seen, voluptuous

with myrtle, lemon, jasmine, and alive

with parrots’ wings”. I agree wholeheartedly. Pomegranate transports you to exotic places.

There’s nothing quite like pomegranate

to bring a celebratory quality to a dish, be

it savoury or sweet.

Otherwise beige dishes involving

grains – couscous, bulgur wheat

– are elevated by a handful of pomegranate seeds.

A scattering of seeds tarts up a brown compote of wintry dried prunes, apricots. It adds a vivid, improving colour, taste, and texture dimension to a relatively humdrum green salad topped with feta.

I’m such a pomegranate

freak that one Christmas I

lugged back home a manual pomegranate juicer, £16 from Istanbul’s spice bazaar.

That New Year we added the vibrant juice to sparkling wine to make cocktails. Pomegranate Fizz instantly became a

family tradition.

Yes, yes, I hear the chorus: “But they’re

so difficult to open!”

This is why ready-prepared

pomegranate seeds are now a fixture in supermarket chillers.

These taste insipid and dilute because they’ve been processed in a machine that uses water, and lost most of their juice.

Theories abound about the easiest way

to open pomegranates and liberate the

seeds from their leathery red jackets

and yellowish pith. I have road-tested them all, believe me. The least successful was whacking them with a rolling pin or battering them, halved, with a heavy spoon.

Trust me on this one: the purple spatters on my kitchen wall prove it.

My favoured technique, learned from a Pakistani friend, is as follows. Make a shallow incision in the skin with a small, sharp knife, just enough so that you can then just pull the pomegranate apart with your fingers.

A ripe fruit will have a little “give” under parts of its skin; this is where to start. Once you have forced the fruit apart, turn the halves over a bowl with the rugged broken seed facing down, and then pull back the skin, as if you were trying to turn the pomegranate inside out.

From there, the seeds, which should then be exposed in uneven peaks and ridges, should pop out with relative ease, leaving most of their papery pith behind them. Gently coax out any stragglers that resist with your fingers.

As Darkhar’s puts it: “Never cut a pomegranate through the heart. It will weep blood. Treat it delicately, with respect.”