Chick-PeaChick-Pea — The chickpea, chick pea, garbanzo bean, Indian pea, ceci bean, bengal gram, hummus, kadale kaalu (Kannada), sanaga pappu (Telugu), chana or channa (Cicer arietinum) is an edible legume (English “pulse”) of the family Fabaceae, subfamily Faboideae. The garbanzo is often used as a source of protein by vegetarians and vegans since it has one of the highest protein levels of all plants.

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. The flowers are white or sometimes reddish-blue. Chickpeas need a subtropical or tropical climate with more than 400 mm of annual rain. They can be grown in a temperate climate but yields will be much lower.

Chickpeas (garbanzo) are grown in the Mediterranean, western Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Domestically they can be sprouted within a few days all year round with a sprouter on a windowsill.

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 in 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 make excellent curries and are one of the most popular vegetarian foods in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the UK. On the Indian subcontinent chickpeas are called chana (Hindi, Bengali and other Indic languages), konda kadalai or kothu kadalai (Tamil), where they are a major source of protein in a mostly vegetarian culture. Many popular Indian dishes are made with chickpea flour, such as mirchi bajji and mirapakaya bajji telugu. In India 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. Chickpea flour is also used to make “Burmese tofu” which was first known among the Shan people of Burma. The flour is also used as a batter to coat various vegetables and meats before frying, such as with panelle, a chickpea fritter from Sicily. In the Philippines garbanzo beans preserved in syrup are eaten as sweets and in desserts such as halo-halo.

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.

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 garbonzo’s calcium content as about tha same as yogurt and close to milk.

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