Do you have any idea where chickpeas come from? Do they grow on trees or in the ground? Have you ever even wondered? I think the answers will surprise you.
Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, don’t often get enough credit. I personally consume some form of chickpeas every day. This small substance is very high in protein which makes it perfect as a replacement for animal protein. I use them whole in soups, stews and vegetable curries. When pureed with tahini paste it becomes the widely used hummus dip. I use it as a low fat substitute for mayo in my sandwiches.
I buy chickpeas so often that I had lost touch with its origin. Apparently, the chickpea dates back 7,500 years in the Middle East. We all know how widely chickpeas and hummus are used in specific parts of the world as a diet staple. When I think about chickpeas my thoughts usually revolve around asking myself if I have the time to properly prepare them. Dried chickpeas need overnight soaking and hours of boiling. When on a time crunch I purchase a can of organic chickpeas for less than $1.00.
During a farmer’s market trip I was led to a new appreciation of this tiny pulse. One of my favorite farmers grows and cultivates garbanzo plants. The photo taken above is of a plant he harvested that morning. It weighed 20 pounds. If you notice the size of the vegetation on the plant you’ll see how much manual labor is needed.
I spent a few minutes thumbing through the plant. It smells of freshly cut grass. However, I was on a mission to find the chickpeas. Sorting through the branches I would find small pea pods. When I opened the individual pods there were one to two chickpeas inside. I nibbled on them raw. They tasted sweet and bitter at the same time. In those several minutes I only shelled 4 or 5 chickpeas. It’s hard work!
In speaking with the farmer I fell in love with his passion for growing this amazing and necessary plant. Yet, he pointed out a few flaws to his strategy. 1) Not many people come to the market and intend on hauling away 20 pounds of plant bundles back to their car 2) In order to harvest this plant you need a small army in your kitchen for all the work 3) You don’t make a lot of money selling fresh chickpea plants. The amount of space these plants take up at his farm table means less room for produce and fruit which frankly will bring him more revenue.
Even though all of those points are valid and true I am forever grateful he had the chickpea plant there that day. The taste of a fresh, not dried or canned chickpea is forever ingrained in my memory. If I had a small army in my kitchen I would buy that plant and give you all a sample!
Here is my easy to make hummus recipe from a previous post. I hope when you open that can of chickpeas and you see how many you get for $1.00 you’ll have a new appreciation for this mighty bean.
Traditional Hummus (Houmous)
1 Can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 ½ Tablespoons Tahini paste (I prefer “raw” tahini versus “roasted” tahini.) Available in most supermarkets
1 Lemon, juice only
¼ Cup Olive Oil (good quality)
3 Tablespoons cold water
Sea salt (or Kosher salt) and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
In a food processor add the chickpeas, pinch of salt and pepper and the tahini paste and pulse.
Remove the upper lid and slowly stream in lemon juice. You should still have a rough consistency. Slowly stream in cold water while food processor is running. Add water to your liking. I prefer a very smooth hummus so I use about 3 tablespoons of water.
Transfer to a decorative bowl. Make a well in the middle and pour in good quality olive oil.
Sprinkle with sweet paprika on top.
All recipes © Laura Dove