Chickpeas (Cicer Arietinum) may look simple and humble—but there are a whole lot more to them than meets the eye! For starters, this legume doesn’t have just one name. Garbanzo is a common term in the U.S., while other names include Bengal Grams, Egyptian Peas, Ceci Beans and Kabuli Chana. Chickpeas come in a variety of different types and colours, not only the beige kind in cans that we drain and rinse for recipes.
Most of all, chickpeas offer endless flexibility in the kitchen. Dried chickpeas can be a tasty salty snack (toss patted dry chickpeas with olive oil and sea salt, place on a baking sheet and roast until crispy), or you can stuff them into sandwiches with vegetables and cheese for a chickpea salad sandwich. Another easy winner is hummus—a chickpea classic. It’s hard to turn down roasted red pepper hummus!
Chickpeas simply taste good—and they perform even better. Of the 57 million metric tonnes of pulses produced annually on a global basis, chickpea is the third most important, right behind dry bean and field pea. The average annual production of chickpea is approximately 7.2 million metric tonnes, with annual traded product at only 500,000 metric tonnes.
- Desi types account for approximately 85 percent of global chickpea production, with the bulk produced in the Indian subcontinent.
- Kabuli types account for about 15 percent of global chickpea production, with major producers being Turkey, Syria, Iran, Mexico, Morocco and Ethiopia.
- Compared to Desi types, a greater proportion of global Kabuli production is traded rather than consumed domestically – Turkey and Mexico are the main exporters.
Chickpeas Around the World
Chickpea is grown almost exclusively for human consumption. Use is determined by seed type and ethnic culture:
- In India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the bulk of desi seeds are de-hulled, split and the cotyledons used as a food called dhal.
- Dhal is utilized either in the preparation of a thin spiced porridge, which forms an accompaniment to most Indian meals, or is further ground to flour (besan) for the preparation of fried, sweet or savory snacks or for besan curry.
- Kabuli seeds are cooked as whole seeds and are important components of many traditional West Asian and North African dishes involving rice, vegetables or meat.
- Kabuli seeds can also be boiled, ground and mixed with oil to produce a dip product called hummus.
- In developed countries, whole Kabuli seeds are used as a vegetable, mainly in salads, soups and stews.