Anardana: The Pomegranate Spice

Anardana

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.

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Walnut Flour: The Truly European Nut Flour

Walnut Flour

The walnuts used to make walnut flour originated in Asia Minor, which today makes up most of Turkey. The first documentation of walnut tree cultivation was in Babylon, 2000 BCE. There is archaeological evidence that points to walnuts being consumed in Europe eight millennia ago. They may have been eaten even earlier. They both featured in the Greek and Roman diets and were considered valuable for medicine as well as for food.

First-century naturalist Pliny the Elder warned about supposed negative health effects of walnuts. He imagined that walnuts could cause health issues to someone who merely sat beneath a walnut tree. Nonetheless, walnuts were among the foods left on tables by fleeing Pompeians when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD.

In the 8th century, Charlemagne had his orchards seeded with walnut trees and walnuts were as good as currency as far as tithes to the French church were concerned.

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Chickpea Flour: Gluten-Free Flour From The Most Popular Legume

Chickpea Flour

Chickpeas are the world’s most widely consumed legume. They belong to the same general family as peanuts and alfalfa and have an ancient history. Archaeological findings show that chickpeas were being consumed in the Middle East 7,500 years ago. They were being consumed in Turkey during what historians call the Neolithic period and were also eaten in Greece around 3500 BCE.

In all likelihood, they were first cultivated in the Mediterranean region around 3000 BCE. It was from there that they spread to Africa and to India. Chickpeas were popular with the Romans who used them to make chickpea flour. They used that flour to make a type of polenta. Charlemagne mentions chickpeas around 800 AD as does Nicholas Culpeper much later in the 17th century.

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Hazelnut Flour: A Northern Italian Specialty

Hazelnut flour

Hazelnut flour is made from hazelnuts that have had their skins removed before being ground to a fine powder. Hazelnut flour most likely originated in Italy. Italy is second on the list of main hazelnut producers in the world after Turkey. Hazelnut flour is a staple in Northern Italy and is used in a range of savory and sweet dishes. In the Piedmont region of Italy, groves of hazelnut trees have a protected geographical indication status. The status points to the importance of the hazelnut and its products to the culture of the region.

Fun fact: Piedmont’s hazelnut trees grow in symbiosis with another Northern Italian culinary treasure — the white truffle.

Hazelnuts have been used in Europe as far back as 9,000 years ago. Archaeologists have discovered evidence of the nuts being processed in England, Scotland and on the Isle of Man.

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Wheat Flour: The World’s Favorite Flour

wheat flour

Wheat flour has existed as a domesticated crop for around 10,000 years. In the earliest communities, people ground wheat between two rocks to create a meal that they could use to make kind of cake. The Ancient Egyptians ground their wheat with saddle stones and used papyrus sieves to refine their flour. They mixed their flour with yeast to create leavened loaves in a variety of shapes. The skill of Egyptian bakers is detailed in various ancient murals found in tombs along the Nile. The Romans would perfect the rotary mill to convert wheat into flour. It is likely that they were the first to use water to power wheat mills. The Romans would also take wheat throughout their empire.

In the 16th century, the concept of rollers for grinding wheat was mentioned in an Italian engineering handbook. By the following century, the first mill using rollers was constructed. Rollers reached the US in the latter half of the 19th century. Rollers eliminated the cost of grindstone maintenance and produced better flour.

Wheat was ground using more or less the same ancient methods up until the 19th century when milling became mechanized. It was at this time that the New Process came along. The New Process involved cracking the wheat rather than crushing it. It allowed the wheat to be gradually separated into its two components: bran and flour. It extracted more flour and reduced the number of workers needed to tend machines. In the late 19th century, a gradual process for refining wheat came along. The process was used to remove middlings, which were particles like bran and germ that gave the flour of the time a coarse texture and a yellowish color.

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Cassava Flour: A Grain-Free Root Flour

Cassava Flour

According to historians, cassava comes from South America. It most likely originated in Brazil and Paraguay. Historians also believed that it was first cultivated about 10,000 years ago and would migrate throughout Central America and the Caribbean long before Columbus and other colonials arrived in the New World. After the Europeans arrived they continued cultivating it. Cassava — also called manioc — was used aboard slave ships as rations for the slaves. This was probably how cassava made its way to Africa. The root would reach Asia via the Spanish occupation of the Philippines.

Cassava has long been used to make cassava flour. It is important to note that cassava flour differs from tapioca though both are sourced from the same plant. Tapioca starch is the refined starch from the cassava root, whereas cassava flour is made with the whole starchy root. To make the flour, the cassava root is dried and ground.

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Coconut Flour: A Nutritious, Gluten-Free Wheat Flour Alternative

coconut flour

The origin of the coconut is still debated among historians, but there is some consensus that it originated in Southeast Asia. The fruits of the coconut tree were carried from there to other parts of the world via ocean currents. This is how they wound up in Polynesia, Tahiti, and New Zealand. Coconut flour comes from the white interior of the coconut, the part that is used to make coconut milk. The coconut milk is squeezed out and what is left is dried and ground to powder.

While coconut flour’s origin story has not been well documented, there is some circumstantial evidence that it originated in Polynesia or Tahiti. While coconut flour has recently become trendy in the west for use in paleo and keto diets, it appears to have its longest history of use in Polynesian and Tahitian cuisine.

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