Saturday, November 26, 2005

CHICKPEAS (CICER ARIETINUM)

Whilst some people dislike chickpeas, I always loved them for their mild nutty and creamy taste as well as for their crunchy and pleasant floury texture. I also enjoy the wide ranging variety of dishes which can be made with this humble seed…

Chickpeas are generally round in shape and either black, reddish, brown or pale yellow in colour. Also known as chana, garbanzo bean, Bengal gram or ceci bean, this seed is a member of the pulse family and originates from Southern Europe and the Middle East. Chickpeas grow on 20-50cm bushes which have small feathery leaves. Although chickpeas need a subtropical or tropical climate, because the plants need a lot of rain (400mm annual rain), they are also quite resistant to cold temperatures. Chickpeas can be grown in a temperate climate, but the production will then be lower. They are produced from the Mediterranean to Western Asia. Did you know that they were even cultivated in Germany, during WWII, as a substitute to coffee?!!! Interesting, isn’t it?….
Before they can be cooked, chickpeas have to be previously soaked for about 8 good hours in water, but they can also be germinated and then, eaten raw. Because of it’s essential nutrients and undeniable source of protein, this pulse holds a major role and importance within many culinary traditions of many cultures in places like India, Spain, Greece, North Africa, Lebanon, etc… What would a couscous, a hummus, raitas, felafels or a chhole be without this rich and nourishing staple?!? Many appreciated and renowned specialities would simply not exist without chickpeas. Just imagine what we would come to miss!...

Chickpeas are magical as they can be curried, spiced, stewed, mashed, pureed or ground (flour); one can nearly do what she/he wants with them! And apart from their obvious utility, chickpeas taste very fine (yes, yes…) and bring an uncomparably round hazelnutty/chestnutty flavor and a “smoky” note to dishes….


(Chickpeas -Pic by
www.kristinreisinger.com)
(Chickpea Harvest -Pic by www.christianaid.org.uk)

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