Originally cultivated in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, have spread their culinary influence and superpowers across the world. And rightly so, this iconic bean has fed and nourished the great civilisations for thousands of years.
The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans were all fuelled by this mighty super powered bean.
History of chickpeas
Chickpeas are one of the earliest cultivated legumes, 7500-year-old remains have been found in the Middle East!
Seasonality & availability
Luckily chickpea are available all year round. You can buy them cooked in a tin or dried. Chickpea flour is another great form. You can add this to bread, pancakes or dumplings.
The biggest producers of chickpeas are:
- North America
Since the chickpea is one of the world’s most popular legumes, it naturally has a long list of different names.
Most people only know about “garbanzo” and “chickpea”, but there are many more.
Here’s the full list of commonly-used names:
- Bengal gram
- Ceci bean
- Chana dal
- Chick pea
- Egyptian pea
- Garbanzo bean
Chickpeas can be a delight for farmers to grow
The plant brings a number of benefits to the surrounding environment. For one, the chickpea plant can enrich soil with nitrogen. This is due to the particular bacteria that live along the plant’s roots.
These bacteria are able to convert nitrogen in the air into the form plants need to flourish. The deep roots of chickpea plants also play a role in stabilizing the earth around them — lowering the chance of erosion.
On top of that, they also secrete malic acid from their leaves and stems. This organic acid is a natural insecticide, so most insects will stay away from where it’s growing.
Nutritional content of chickpea
Chickpeas are very high in fiber and protein, containing several key vitamins and filled with essential minerals.
A 30g serving provides the following nutrients;
- Calories: 46
- Carbs: 8 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Protein: 3 grams
- Folate: 12% of the RDI
- Iron: 4% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 5% of the RDI
- Copper: 5% of the RDI
- Manganese: 14% of the RDI
Health benefits of chickpea
Chickpeas are full of fiber, which has several proven benefits for digestive health. The fiber in chickpeas is mostly soluble, meaning it blends with water and forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract.
Soluble fiber may help increase the number of healthy bacteria in your gut and prevent the overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria. This can lead to reduced risk of some digestive conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome and colon cancer.
If you want to improve your digestive health, including more chickpeas in your diet is certainly worth a try.
Balance Blood Sugar Levels
Chickpeas have a fairly low glycemic index (GI), which is a marker of how rapidly your blood sugar rises after eating a food. Diets including many low-GI foods have been shown to promote blood sugar management.
They are a also good source of fiber and protein, which are both known for their role in blood sugar regulation. Fiber slows carbohydrate absorption, which promotes a steady rise in blood sugar levels, rather than a spike.
Eating protein-rich foods may help maintain healthy blood sugar levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes.
Chickpeas are a great source of plant-based protein, making them an appropriate food choice for those who do not eat animal products.
A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving provides about 3 grams of protein, which is comparable to the protein content in similar foods like black beans and lentils. The protein in chickpeas may help promote fullness and keep your appetite under control.
Protein is also known for its role in weight control, bone health and maintaining muscle strength.
Some studies have suggested that the quality of the protein in chickpeas is better than that of other types of legumes. That’s because chickpeas contain almost all the essential amino acids, except for methionine. For this reason, they are not a complete source of protein.
To make sure you get all the amino acids in your diet, it’s important to pair chickpeas with another protein source, such as whole grains to make up for the deficit.
Support Healthy Weight Management
Chickpeas have several properties that may help you control your weight.
First, chickpeas have a fairly low calorie density. This means they provide few calories relative to the amount of nutrients they contain.
Chickpeas keep you feeling fuller for longer, this helps you to stop snacking between meals or over eating.
How to cook chickpeas
Chickpea is the key ingredient in hummus and chana masala, and it can be ground into flour to make falafels. They are also used in salads, soups, stews, curry and many more dishes.
The chickpea is a central ingredient in cuisines from Spain and North Africa all the through the Middle East, into India and parts of Asia. India produces 9.000.000 metric tonnes, 64% of the world's total chickpeas per year. That's a lot of hummus!
Dried chick peas are great value for money.. whoever said eating healthy is expensive?! It is mush more cost effective and fresher to use the dried chickpeas. They just require overnight soaking before cooking.
To cook, simple add the soaked chickpeas to a large saucepan and add 4 part water to 1 part chickpeas.. add some seas salt, bring to a boil and cook out on a gentle simmer for approximately 1 hour. Keep the water topped up throughout the cooking process. Taste the chickpeas and cook until tender.
Allow to cool and store the chickpeas in the liquid to keep them from drying out. They will last about 3-4 days in the fridge.
Cooked chickpeas are very versatile, they can be added to many different dishes. Pop them in a curry or stir-fry, add them to a daal or blend them down for a delicious hummus.
My favourite chickpea recipes
Check out some of my favourite chickpea recipes
5 Interesting chickpea facts
- The chickpea is one of the worlds first cultivated crops, going back 7500 years ago.
- It is the second most widely cultivated legumes in the world.
- The world produces approximately 21 million tonnes of chickpeas per year.
- Chickpeas are the best sources of folate, an essential micro-nutrient.
- Chickpeas are 23% protein; 100g grams will give you 19.3 grams of protein.
Where to buy chickpeas
Discover more plant-based ingredients to cook with
There are 70.000 edible plants on Earth. Living a wholefood plant-based lifestyle is in no way limiting! There are limitless possibilities. It just takes an open mind and sense of adventure