|Left: Bengal variety; right: European variety|
The chickpea (Cicer arietinum) (also garbanzo bean, Indian pea, ceci bean, Bengal gram) is an edible legume of the family Fabaceae, subfamily Faboideae. Chickpeas are high in protein and one of the earliest cultivated vegetables. 7,500-year-old remains have been found in the Middle East.
The name chickpea traces back through the French chiche to Latin cicer (from which the Roman cognomen Cicero was taken). This may have been taken from the Armenian word սիսեռ (siser) which refers to the bean. This is probable because Armenian was spoken throughout the northern Middle East in the areas where evidence of the first cultivation of the beans has been found. The Oxford English Dictionary lists a 1548 citation that reads, "Cicer may be named in English Cich, or ciche pease, after the Frenche tonge." The dictionary cites "Chick-pea" in the mid-18th century; the original word in English was chich, found in print in English in 1388, and taken directly from French.
The word garbanzo came to English as "calavance" in the 17th century, from Old Spanish (perhaps influenced by Old Spanish garroba or algarroba). The Portuguese arvançu has suggested to some that the origin of the word "Garbanzo" is in the Greek erebinthos. But the Oxford English Dictionary notes that some scholars doubt this; it also mentions a possible origination in the word garbantzu, from Basque — a non-Indo-European tongue — in which it is a compound of garau, seed + antzu, dry.
Domesticated chickpeas have been found in the aceramic levels of Jericho (PPNB) along with Cayönü in Turkey and in Neolithic pottery at Hacilar, Turkey. They are found in the late Neolithic (about 3500 BCE) at Thessaly, Kastanas, Lerna and Dimini. In southern France Mesolithic layers in a cave at L'Abeurador, Aude have yielded wild chickpeas carbon dated to 6790±90 BCE.
By the Bronze Age chickpeas were known in Italy and Greece. In classical Greece they were called erébinthos and eaten as a staple, a dessert or consumed raw when young. The Romans knew several varieties such as venus, ram and punic chickpeas. They were both cooked down into a broth and roasted as a snack. The Roman gourmet Apicius gives several recipes for chickpeas. Carbonized chickpeas have been found at the Roman legion fort at Neuss (Novaesium), Germany in layers from the 1st century CE, along with rice.
Chickpeas are mentioned in Charlemagne's Capitulare de villis (about 800 CE) as cicer italicum, as grown in each imperial demesne. Albertus Magnus mentions red, white and black varieties. Culpeper noted "chick-pease or cicers" are less "windy" than peas and more nourishing. Ancient people also associated chickpeas with Venus because they were said to offer medical uses such as increasing sperm and milk, provoking menstruation and urine and helping to treat kidney stones. Wild cicers were thought to be especially strong and helpful.
In 1793 ground roast chickpeas were noted by a German writer as a coffee substitute in Europe and in the First World War they were grown for this in some areas of Germany. Chickpeas are still sometimes brewed instead of coffee.
The plant grows to between 20 and 50 cm high and has small feathery leaves on either side of the stem. One seedpod contains two or three peas. It has white flowers with blue, violet or pink veins. Chickpeas need a subtropical or tropical climate with more than 400 millimetres (16 in) of annual rain. They can be grown in a temperate climate but yields will be much lower.
There are two main kinds of chickpea:
The Desi (meaning country or local in Hindi) is also known as Bengal gram or kala chana. Kabuli (meaning from Kabul in Hindi, since they were thought to have come from Afghanistan when first seen in India) is the kind widely grown throughout the Mediterranean. Desi is likely the earliest form since it closely resembles seeds found both on archaeological sites and the wild plant ancestor of domesticated chickpeas (Cicer reticulatum) which only grows in southeast Turkey, where it is believed to have originated. Desi chickpeas have a markedly higher fiber content than Kabulis and hence a very low glycemic index which may make them suitable for people with blood sugar problems. The desi type is used to make Chana Dal, which is a split chickpea with the skin removed.
Mature chickpeas can be cooked and eaten cold in salads, cooked in stews, ground into a flour called gram flour (also known as besan and used primarily in Indian cuisine), ground and shaped in balls and fried as falafel, fermented to make an alcoholic drink similar to sake, stirred into a batter and baked to make farinata, cooked and ground into a paste called hummus or roasted, spiced and eaten as a snack (such as leblebi). Chick peas and bengal grams are used to make curries and are one of the most popular vegetarian foods in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the UK. On the Indian subcontinent chickpeas are called Harbharaa in Marathi (the green variety, that is), kadale kaalu in Kannada, shanaga (శనగ) in Telugu, chana in Hindi and other Indic languages, Chhola in Bengali and konda kadalai in Tamil, where they are a major source of protein in a mostly vegetarian culture. Typically Chana in Hindi and Punjabi might refer to both varieties, as might chhole, but the former is more the green hard small variety while the latter is the large creamy softer one and also the more popular dish served around the region outside homes as well as on celebrations, although it is not restricted to celebrations as a matter of home cuisine. The harder variety is rarely seen on celebrations in north or served outside homes, that is to say.
Many popular dishes in Indian cuisine are made with chickpea flour, such as mirchi bajji and mirapakaya bajji telugu. In India, as well as in the Levant, unripe chickpeas are often picked out of the pod and eaten as a raw snack and the leaves are eaten as a green vegetable in salads. In season in fact the plant cut from earth is sold on streets in bunches and people buy them to eat the bean raw, just for fun. Chickpea flour is also used to make "Burmese tofu" which was first known among the Shan people of Burma. The flour is used as a batter to coat various vegetables and meats before frying, such as with panelle, a chickpea fritter from Sicily. Chickpea flour is also used to make the mediterranean flatbread socca.
In the Philippines garbanzo beans preserved in syrup are eaten as sweets and in desserts such as halo-halo. Ashkenazi Jews traditionally serve whole chickpeas at a Shalom Zachar celebration for baby boys.
Dried chickpeas need a long cooking time (1–2 hours) but will easily fall apart when cooked longer. If soaked for 12–24 hours before use, cooking time can be considerably shortened by around 30 minutes.
Raw chickpeas contain protease (enzyme that breaks down proteins) inhibitors which counteract the enzymes in our body that digest protein.
|Top ten chick peas producers — 11 June 2008|
|No symbol = official figure, F = FAO estimate, * = Unofficial/Semi-official/mirror data,
C = Calculated figure, A = Aggregate (may include official, semi-official or estimates);
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||686 kJ (164 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||7.6 g|
|Vitamin A equiv.||1 μg (0%)|
|Thiamine (Vit. B1)||0.116 mg (9%)|
|Riboflavin (Vit. B2)||0.063 mg (4%)|
|Niacin (Vit. B3)||0.526 mg (4%)|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)||0.286 mg (6%)|
|Vitamin B6||0.139 mg (11%)|
|Folate (Vit. B9)||172 μg (43%)|
|Vitamin B12||0 μg (0%)|
|Vitamin C||1.3 mg (2%)|
|Vitamin E||0.35 mg (2%)|
|Vitamin K||4 μg (4%)|
|Calcium||49 mg (5%)|
|Iron||2.89 mg (23%)|
|Magnesium||48 mg (13%)|
|Phosphorus||168 mg (24%)|
|Potassium||291 mg (6%)|
|Sodium||7 mg (0%)|
|Zinc||1.53 mg (15%)|
|Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient database
Chickpeas are a helpful source of zinc, folate and protein. They are also very high in dietary fiber and hence a healthy source of carbohydrates for persons with insulin sensitivity or diabetes. Chickpeas are low in fat and most of this is polyunsaturated. Nutrient profile of desi chana (the smaller variety)is different , especialy the fibre content which is much higher than the light coloured variety. One hundred grams of mature boiled chickpeas contains 164 calories, 2.6 grams of fat (of which only 0.27 grams is saturated), 7.6 grams of dietary fiber and 8.9 grams of protein. Chickpeas also provide dietary calcium (49–53 mg/100 g), with some sources citing the garbanzo's calcium content as about the same as yogurt and close to milk. According to the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics chickpea seeds contain on average:
There is also a high reported mineral content: