Anardana: The Pomegranate Spice

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Anardana refers to the dried and ground seeds of the pomegranate. The name anardana is a Persian portmanteau. Anar translates to pomegranate and dana means seed. Anardana goes by different names depending on where in India you find it. Indians who speak Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu all refer to dried and ground pomegranate seeds and anardana. Dadima is its Sanskrit name. Bengalis know it as Dalim.

The pomegranate tree comes from Iran and India. It is native to the Himalayas as well. In fact, it is the wild Himalayan pomegranate — called daru — that is used to make traditional anardana. Pomegranates were a staple food in Ancient Egypt and there is Egyptian art that reflects its status. From there, the cultivation of pomegranates spread throughout Central Asia and the Mediterranean region for thousands of years. The remains of pomegranates have been discovered in Bronze Age ruins in Jericho and in Cyprus.

Pomegranate was also carried by desert caravans and would eventually reach India from Iran in the 1st century AD. In the centuries since, it has been cultivated all over Southeast Asia and in Africa as well as in parts of Asia. The Spanish city of Granada was named for pomegranate while Spain was under Moorish control.

Pomegranate also grows in colder parts of Mexico and Honduras, where early Spanish settlers cultivated it. It has been grown in the US as well, having been introduced to California by Spanish settlers in the 18th century. Around this time, attempts were being made to introduce pomegranate trees to Britain, but they did not succeed. The failure led to attempts by British colonists to plant them in their American colonies. They would grow in the South. By the early 20th century, there were 2,000 acres in California dedicated to pomegranate cultivation.

Anardana flavor profile

Most of the anardana that you are likely to find in the West is very tart and astringent. According to the celebrity food writer Madhur Jaffrey, anardana found in the West is harder and of inferior quality to that found in Pakistan or Punjab. She suggests using lemon juice instead.

Anardana also offers a fruity, sweet note. Its flavor is similar to that of dried cranberries.

Health benefits of anardana

You can get multiple essential nutrients from anardana, including:

  • Vitamins: Anardana is a good source of vitamins C and K.
  • Minerals: Anardana contains significant amounts of potassium and copper.

By adding anardana to your diet, you can get the following health benefits:

  • Improved cognitive health: Higher levels of vitamin K have been associated with better episodic memory in older adults.
  • High blood pressure: Studies have shown that vitamin C can help to relax the blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Relaxing those blood vessels contributes to lower blood pressure.

Common uses

One of the many uses of anardana is as a source of acidity in dishes from India as well as from Pakistan and Bangladesh. Anardana is an alternative to other similar ingredients like amchur and tamarind.

Along with its benefits for flavor, anardana makes a good thickener and can act as a preservative. You can add anardana to curries or use it as part of a dry rub or marinade for meat. Other Indian applications include chutney. In the Middle East, anardana gets used in bread and pastries.