Anardana is the name for a culinary spice made from the dried seeds and pulp of some varieties of pomegranate fruit (Punica granatum) that are too sour to eat fresh. The wild pomegranates, known as daru and grown in the southern Himalayas, are believed to yield the highest quality seeds for making the sticky spice, though it is also made from cultivated fruit. Wild pomegranates are preferred, however, as they can be grown easily with almost no care or maintenance until the fruits are ready to be harvested. The small pomegranate fruits reach a diameter of only 2.5 inches (6.35 centimeters) with a hard outer rind and dark red to pinkish-white seeds.
Anardana's name derives from the Persian anar (pomegranate) and dana (seeds). The spice is used most frequently in Indian and Pakistani cuisine to add tartness to dishes, and sometimes in Middle Eastern or Persian foods to replace pomegranate syrup. Used mostly for vegetables and legumes, anardana is also sometimes used to flavor meat dishes. In India, reduced pomegranate juice, or grenadine, is used to marinate meat, since its enzymes tenderize and add subtle flavor. It is believed that the anardana spice produces a similar result when used in the same way.
The pomegranate seeds and pulp are dried together to make anardana, and because of their extremely sticky texture and reddish-brown color, they are sometimes referred to as “pomegranate molasses.” The traditional drying method consists of spreading the pulp and seed mixture onto rooftops and allowing them to dry in the sun for about two weeks. This method is still in use today, though it's considered unhygienic because the pulp often becomes covered in dirt and dust. Mechanical drying is being used more frequently now, as it dries the fruit in less time (5 to 48 hours in a food dehydrator) and produces a more sanitary end product.
Both anardana powder and seeds are typically available for purchase at Middle Eastern and Indian food markets. The powdered spice is preferred for its ease of use in cooking, but anardana seeds store longer and provide additional texture to food. Pomegranate molasses, which contains both pulp and seed together, may also be found for purchase and can be used in a fashion similar to pomegranate syrup. In powdered form, the spice is often added to spiced chickpeas or used in combination with other herbs and spices as a marinade for meat and vegetables. Pomegranate molasses can be drizzled over crepes or other sweet pastries.