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Exploring Chickpeas: History, Nutrition, and Recipes

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Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

exploring-chickpeas

Hard and dry, a chickpea is inedible.

Hard and dry, a heart is unlovable.

Presoak it in dance, music and art.

— Khang Kijarro Nguyen

What Is a Pulse?

There are two definitions, separate and distinct but also intertwined. A pulse can be the throb of a heartbeat. And a pulse is also defined as a type of food that is beneficial to one’s heart. Dry peas, lentils, and chickpeas are “pulses.”

Chickpeas—there are many other names. In Italian they are ceci, in India, they are gram, in Hebrew, chana; the Spanish name is garbanzo.

However, the name is inconsequential; their nutritional value is what has made chickpeas one of the most valuable foods in the world. These wrinkly round seeds, reminiscent of hazelnuts, are a supremely beneficial food source.

Let's Talk About Protein

Chickpeas Are #4

Chickpeas Are #4

Where Did They Come From?

Botanically they are Cicer arietinum, a legume cultivated in Turkey perhaps more than 10,000 years ago. They would sprout quickly in the cool wet season, available for harvest before the summer drought.

There are two general varieties of chickpea. First, there is desi which is most like the wild chickpea, small, dark and having a tough outer seed coat. These are grown mostly in Iran, Ethiopia, and Mexico. And then there is the Kabuli, larger, cream-colored, with a thin seed covering. This is the chickpea of the Middle East and the Mediterranean, the basis for hummus, falafel, and lablabi.

Anthropologists do not know how and when the chickpea migrated to other regions, but it was being cultivated in India 4,000 years ago, appeared in Buddhist writings of 400 B.C.

During the 16th century, garbanzo beans were brought to other subtropical regions of the world by both Spanish and Portuguese explorers as well as Indians who emigrated to other countries.

Let's Not Forget Charlemagne

Charlemagne (742-814), was a successful military commander and the first ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. Did you know that he also was an accomplished gardener? He held claim to numerous estates, with properties in Northern Italy, France, and Germany. And he is responsible for the writing of “Capitulare de villis vel curtis imperii,” roughly translated as “A Chapter on Farmsteads of the Imperial Court.” This publication is a compilation of gardening knowledge from the early Middle Ages and lists the almost 100 herbs, medicinal plants, vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains and beans cultivated on his land holdings.

Many of the plants listed and still known and used today—sage and coriander, rosemary and onions, crucifers and cucumbers, and (notably) the chickpea.

And Then, to America

The chickpea is now wildly popular in America, and for this, we can thank hummus. It was that creamy, garlicky dip for our pita chips that introduced 20th-century American palates to the chickpea. Once hummus became a staple in our refrigerators, the health-conscious recognized its value as not just a dip but a nutritious source of protein and fiber.

For those who wish to eschew the traditional meat-laden American diet, the chickpea is a welcome foodstuff.

But Wait, There's More!

Vitamin B-6

56.8%

Vitamin C

15.2%

Calcium

7.7%

Copper

20.9%

Folate

40.2%

Iron

18%

Magnesium

17.4%

Phosphate

21.6%

Zinc

17%

Statistics

  • 12.1 million tons of chickpeas are cultivated each year.
  • Chickpeas are one of the oldest cultivated crops on the earth.
  • They are the second most widely grown legume in the world (soybeans are number 1).
  • They are also the best source of folate (aka Vitamin B-9 which is essential for making red blood cells, enhancing brain health, and crucial in preventing neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly).
  • Since the late 1700s, chickpeas have been used as a caffeine-free substitute for coffee beans.
  • Growing chickpeas can help stabilize the soil and reduce the chance of erosion.
  • The chickpea plant enriches the soil with nitrogen.

Worldwide Production in 2017

CountryMetric Tons

India

9,075

Australia

2,004

Myanmar

526.77

Turkey

470

Russian Federation

418.65

Pakistan

330

USA

313.21

Iran

271.49

Mexico

188.94

How to Prepare and Cook

  • As with any other dried legume, dried chickpeas should first be spread out in a single layer on a cookie sheet and examined for debris, small stones, or beans that are withered or damaged. Then place them in a wire mesh strainer and rinse under cool running water to remove any dust.
  • Cover your dried chickpeas with water, lots and lots of water. They will need to soak for 8 hours (or overnight) and you will be amazed at how much water they take up.
  • After soaking, drain your chickpeas and place them in a large saucepan. Cover with fresh water (at least 2 inches above the level of the beans). Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the beans are soft, at least 20 to 25 minutes. Some people prefer to have their chickpeas even softer and creamier. If that is your choice you might cook them for as long as 40 to 45 minutes.
  • If you are short of time, you can substitute canned chickpeas. Unlike other processed vegetables, there is little difference in the nutritional value of dried vs. canned beans. Three-fourths of a cup of dried beans is about 1 1/2 cups cooked, the equivalent of one 15-ounce can drained and rinsed.

Recipes

Cauliflower and Chickpea Masala

Cauliflower and Chickpea Masala

Cauliflower and Chickpea Masala

Beth's mission is to create food on a budget that doesn't mean eating ramen and beans (even chickpeas) out of a can. One can do delicious without breaking the bank.

Her cauliflower and chickpea masala is inexpensive, incredibly easy, and supremely flavorful. I present this as just one of the many vegetarian/vegan recipes one can make with chickpeas. And, it isn't hummus!

Spicy Chickpea Wraps With Spinach and Avocado

Spicy Chickpea Wraps With Spinach and Avocado

Spicy Chickpea Wraps With Spinach and Avocado

Deryn creates recipes that prove that vegan doesn't mean bland and boring. Her chickpea wraps are filled with a blend of chickpeas, onions, and spices that are reminiscent of the filling for a tuna or egg salad sandwich. Avocado lends a creamy texture and cilantro gives a fresh, citrusy snap to the filling.

Chickpea Meatballs in Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Chickpea Meatballs in Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Chickpea Meatballs in Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Eva is the face and genius of the blog "The Curious Chickpea." With a name like curious chickpea, why would I not look here for imaginative chickpea recipes? She uses brown rice, chickpeas, and pecans as the meaty basis for her meatballs in roasted red pepper sauce. Those three provide the perfect texture. Nutritional yeast lends umami flavor. The sauce is a blend of roasted red peppers, coconut milk, and earthy spices.

Both the sauce and meatballs can be made in advance. Keep them stored separately in the fridge so they don't get soggy. There’s no need to cook the sauce until this point either, move it straight from blender to fridge.

When it’s time to eat, cook the roasted red pepper sauce, bringing it to a simmer and then add the chickpea meatballs. Cook until the meatballs are heated through, turning them in the sauce to coat.

Carb Diva's Moroccan Chickpea Soup

Carb Diva's Moroccan Chickpea Soup

Carb Diva's Moroccan Chickpea Soup

I don't recall where I found this recipe, but it has become one of my favorites. It's relatively inexpensive to make, doesn't take much time, and certainly makes a large quantity. This hearty Moroccan chickpea soup is vegan, and I promise that you won't miss the meat. If you don't have (or don't like) orzo you can omit it, or use broken angel hair pasta or vermicelli.

Kale Chickpea Sandwich Spread

Kale Chickpea Sandwich Spread

Kale Chickpea Sandwich Spread

Tess calls herself a "blendaholic." No, she isn't proposing a soup and pablum diet. She avocated using the blender as an everyday kitchen tool, not just as a mixer for margaritas. This kale-chickpea sandwich filling is plant-based and gluten-free but packed full of flavor, texture, and nutrition.

Curried Sweet Potato and Chickpea Patties

Curried Sweet Potato and Chickpea Patties

Curried Sweet Potato and Chickpea Patties

Curry, coriander, and garam masala flavor these chickpea patties that are low in calories but rank at the top for taste and texture. Serve with a cooling, creamy Indian raita (it's vegan too).

Vegan Chickpea Curry

Vegan Chickpea Curry

Vegan Chickpea Curry

This chickpea curry is made with ingredients that you probably already have on your pantry shelf. Canned garbanzoes, coconut milk, and diced tomatoes will help you create this meal in less than 30 minutes. Serve with basmati rice (or cauliflower rice if you are trying to reduce your carbs).

Chickpea Vegan Meatloaf

Chickpea Vegan Meatloaf

Chickpea Vegan Meatloaf

Alissa (the Connoisseurous Veg) admits that as a child she never liked meatloaf. Her memories of what one tastes like are murky and obscure, a faded remnant of hot school lunches. For someone with such a tragic meatloaf past, she has certainly created a wonderful present.

Her chickpea meatloaf is meaty and full of rich flavors. One caution—when you are mixing this up, don't make the mistake of over-processing. Leave some of the chickpeas a little chunky so that your loaf will have texture.

Chopped Thai Chickpea Salad

Chopped Thai Chickpea Salad

Chopped Thai Chickpea Salad

It's easy to toss chickpeas into a pile of lettuce and call it a salad, but this one is so colorful I just had to include it. First, I love the colors—my daughter's kindergarten teacher taught the class years ago that we should eat a rainbow. And research shows that to be true. Eat from the spectrum of colors and you will get all the vitamins and nutrients you need in a healthy diet.

Monique adds interesting textures as well to this chopped Thai salad—creamy salty cashews, crunchy red cabbage, and brings it all together with a curry peanut sauce.

If you want to make this salad even more hearty stir in chicken, shrimp, tofu, or quinoa.

Vegan oatmeal-chocolate chip bars

Vegan oatmeal-chocolate chip bars

Vegan Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bars

I have a weakness for chocolate chip cookies, but portioning individual scoops of dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet once, twice, three times (or more) just does not fit into my busy life.

For that reason, I adore bar cookies. Take for example these oatmeal chocolate chip bars created by Ela Vais. It takes only minutes to prepare the dough, spread it into your prepared pan and bake. In just 45 minutes (including baking time) you can have a pan of moist, soft, rich bars.

But wait, there's more. These cookies are vegan, gluten-free, and a good source of protein (you could have cookies for breakfast). And, they have a secret ingredient. Believe it or not, these bars are made with chickpeas!

What if you don't like chocolate chips? No problem, you can leave them out or replace them with dried fruit. Adapt them to your taste, bake them, and enjoy them.

Three-Ingredient Dark Chocolate Chickpea Bark

Three-Ingredient Dark Chocolate Chickpea Bark

Three-Ingredient Dark Chocolate Chickpea Bark

Rachel's mission is to help everyone learn that healthy and delicious food is at their fingertips and is only a quick recipe away. She says that no one should have to sacrifice flavor in their food to feel “healthy." She delivers on that promise with this three-ingredient dark chocolate bark.

Sources

© 2019 Linda Lum

Comments

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on December 26, 2019:

Lawrence, that sounds wonderful. The only caveat for people in the States is that we do not (or at least I don't) have access to canned lentils. Why? I have no clue. Anything made with poms looks amazing. The red color is so festive, and I love the citrus-like pop of color.

Thank you, as always, for your comment. You always contribute to my feeble offerings. I appreciate your words and your friendship.

I wish you a belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on December 26, 2019:

Linda

Apart from Hummus (which is always a favourite of mine), a staple that we have ESPECIALLY AT CHRISTMAS is Pomegranate and chickpea salad.

All you need is two Pomegranates, couple of tins of canned chickpeas, a couple of cans of lentils, some mint and a vinaigrette dressing (we use pomegranate) and literally just soften the chickpeas and lentils up a little by simmering for a few minutes, allow them to cool and add the rest. DELICIOUS! and great for Christmas in summer look.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 30, 2019:

Denise, it was a pleasure to do this. I hope you enjoy them.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on October 30, 2019:

I feel very blessed that you got all this info for me. Thanks. I can't wait to check out all these recipes. The chickpea wraps look easy and cool, but so does the Kale Chickpea Spread and the meatloaf. So much to try. Thanks again.

Blessings,

Denise

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 30, 2019:

They are so good for you but some people (think) that they don't like them, probably because they were just randomly added to a soup or salad. If you think about your flavor profiles and use ingredients that support and compliment each other (like good friends) you come out with a much better and happier dish.

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on October 29, 2019:

Your photos are to die for - I mean, to live for! I just want to dive into each one. Thanks for the history and nutrition value for chickpeas. I love 'em!

Lori Colbo from Pacific Northwest on October 29, 2019:

Great looking recipes. Thanks.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 29, 2019:

Dora, that makes me happy. I think any time we can arm ourselves with knowledge, we can make better decisions about the foods we choose.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 29, 2019:

Thank you for these recipes. I love hummus, falafel and everything chickpea. Thanks also for such much good information on its nutritional value. You motivate me to do some exploring also.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 29, 2019:

Flourish, I think it's great that vegan recipes are becoming so much more innovative and tasty. Let me know how the unmeatloaf goes, OK?

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 29, 2019:

Mary, it says that you are a brilliant individual. Thanks for the tip on Denise.

FlourishAnyway from USA on October 29, 2019:

You have given me several new recipes to try. How adventurous you make me feel! I may start with that unmeatloaf.

Mary Wickison from Brazil on October 29, 2019:

Hi Linda,

Denise is in Fresno, which is in the Central Valley (San Joaquin). There are fires in the north and south but Fresno still looks okay. (I'm from Fresno too).

I just had chickpeas on my salad today and knew I could do more.

I'm not sure what it says about me but the first one I clicked was the chocolate one.

Thanks for these ideas.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 29, 2019:

I hope she's okay too, Linda. California is experiencing a total melt down right now.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 29, 2019:

Sha, how can anything covered in chocolate be a bad thing, right?

I am concerned about Denise. I wrote this specifically for her and have not heard from her; she lives in California and I pray all is well for her.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 29, 2019:

Linda, I'm sure your vegan readers will appreciate all these recipes. I like chickpeas but not enough to actually make a meal out of them.

However, the chickpea bark looks pretty good!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 29, 2019:

Manatita so good to have you here; it took a vegan article to bring you out of hiding, right?

manatita44 from london on October 29, 2019:

The Indians also call it Chana, but only when it looks as heavenly 'lickicious' as it does in your recipe. The brownish one is interesting, looks like nuts in sauce. Ha ha.

Another well-researched and brilliant piece of writing. More kudos to you!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 29, 2019:

Bill, I can check with Alex T., but the categories will probably cover more than chickpeas. How are you on ancient Roman artifacts or 2010 pop culture?

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 29, 2019:

Thanks Pamela. I always appreciate your kind words.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 29, 2019:

Eric, the mind plays tricks, doesn't it? I hate garbanzos, I love chickpeas, I liked the ceci on the pizza in Italy. I look forward to your comments (and by the way check out my article from a year ago on hummus).

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 29, 2019:

You probably know what I'm going to say before I say it, right?

Never seen one...never tasted one....but by golly, thanks to this article, I am not an expert on them. I'm ready for Jeopardy! Put me in coach!!!!!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 29, 2019:

I had no idea there were so many ways to use chickpeas. I really liked reading the history of the chickpea and the variety of recipes was great. Thanks Linda for broadening my horizons.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 29, 2019:

OK straight up I do not like Garbanzo beans. Then I read this. And in certain recipes I love Chickpeas. Alright I liked a pizza with Ceci on it in Roma. This current Hummus deal is awesome, my mom was all over it since early 70's. (I thought her recipes were Greek?)

I will be back friend.