|White and green chickpeas|
The chickpea or chick pea (Cicer arietinum) is a legume of the family Fabaceae, subfamily Faboideae. It is also known as gram, or Bengal gram, garbanzo or garbanzo bean and sometimes known as Egyptian pea, ceci, cece or chana or Kabuli Chana (particularly in northern India). Its seeds are high in protein. It is one of the earliest cultivated legumes: 7,500-year-old remains have been found in the Middle East.
The name "chickpea" traces back through the French chiche to cicer, Latin for 'chickpea' (from which the Roman cognomen Cicero was taken). The Oxford English Dictionary lists a 1548 citation that reads, "Cicer may be named in English Cich, or ciche pease, after the Frenche tongue." The dictionary cites "Chick-pea" in the mid-18th century; the original word in English taken directly from French was chich, found in print in English in 1388.
The word garbanzo came first to American English as garvance in the 17th century, from an alteration of the Old Spanish word arvanço (presumably influenced by garroba), being gradually anglicized to calavance, though it came to refer to a variety of other beans (cf. Calavance). The current form garbanzo comes directly from modern Spanish. This word is still used in Latin America and Spain to designate chickpeas. Some have suggested that the origin of the word arvanço is in the Greek erebinthos. Another possible origin is the word garbantzu, from Basque — a non-Indo-European tongue — in which it is a compound of garau, seed + antzu, dry.
Domesticated chickpeas have been found in the aceramic levels of Jericho (PPNB) along with Cayönü in Turkey and in Neolithic pottery at Hacilar, Turkey. They were found in the late Neolithic (about 3500 BCE) at Thessaly, Kastanas, Lerna and Dimini, Greece. In southern France Mesolithic layers in a cave at L'Abeurador, Aude have yielded wild chickpeas carbon dated to 6790±90 BCE.
Chickpeas are mentioned in Charlemagne's Capitulare de villis (about 800 CE) as cicer italicum, as grown in each imperial demesne. Albertus Magnus mentions red, white and black varieties. Nicholas Culpeper noted "chick-pease or cicers" are less "windy" than peas and more nourishing. Ancient people also associated chickpeas with Venus because they were said to offer medical uses such as increasing sperm and milk, provoking menstruation and urine and helping to treat kidney stones. "White cicers" were thought to be especially strong and helpful.
In 1793, ground-roast chickpeas were noted by a German writer as a substitute for coffee in Europe. In the First World War, they were grown for this use in some areas of Germany. They are still sometimes brewed instead of coffee.
Sequencing of the chickpea genome has been completed for 90 chickpea genotypes, including several wild species. A collaboration of 20 research organizations, led by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) identified more than 28,000 genes and several million genetic markers. Scientists expect this work will lead to the development of superior varieties. The new research will benefit the millions of developing country farmers who grow chickpea as a source of much needed income, as well as for its ability to add nitrogen to the soil in which it grows. Production is growing rapidly across the developing world, especially in West Asia where it has increased four-fold over the past 30 years. India is by far the world largest producer but is also the largest importer.
The plant grows to between 20–50 cm (8–20 inches) high and has small feathery leaves on either side of the stem. Chickpeas are a type of pulse, with one seedpod containing two or three peas. It has white flowers with blue, violet or pink veins.
There are three main kinds of chickpea.
Desi has small, darker seeds and a rough coat. It is grown mostly in India and other parts of the Indian subcontinent, as well as in Ethiopia, Mexico, and Iran. Desi means 'country' or 'local' in Hindustani; its other names include Bengal gram or kala chana ("black chickpea" in both Hindi and Urdu) or chhola boot. Desi is probably the earliest variety because it closely resembles seeds found both on archaeological sites and the wild plant ancestor Cicer reticulatum of domesticated chickpeas, which only grows in southeast Turkey, where it is believed to have originated. Desi chickpeas have a markedly higher fibre content than other varieties, and hence a very low glycemic index, which may make them suitable for people with blood sugar problems. The desi type is used to make chana dal, which is a split chickpea with the skin removed.
Bombay chickpeas (Bambai) are also dark but slightly larger than desi. They too are popular in the Indian subcontinent.
Kabuli are lighter-coloured, larger and with a smoother coat, and are mainly grown in the Mediterranean, Southern Europe, Northern Africa, South America and Indian subcontinent. The name means "from Kabul" in Hindi and Urdu, and this variety was thought to come from Kabul, Afghanistan when it was introduced to India in the 18th century. It is called Kabuli chana (काबुली चणा) in Marathi and safed chana in India.
An uncommon black chickpea, ceci neri, is grown only in Apulia, in southeastern Italy. It is larger and darker than the desi variety.
Green chickpeas are common in the state of Maharastra, India. In Marathi, they are called harbhara (हरभरा). Chana dal is also called harbara dal (हरभरा डाळ). Tender, immature harbara roasted on coal before the skin is removed is called hula (हुळा) in Marathi.
Chickpeas are usually rapidly boiled for 10 minutes, and then simmered for a longer period. Dried chickpeas need a long cooking time (1–2 hours) but will easily fall apart when cooked longer. If soaked for 12–24 hours before use, cooking time can be shortened by around 30 minutes. Chickpeas can also be pressure cooked, or sous vide cooked at 90 °C (194 °F).
Mature chickpeas can be cooked and eaten cold in salads, cooked in stews, ground into a flour called gram flour (also known as chickpea flour and besan and used frequently in Indian cuisine), ground and shaped in balls and fried as falafel, or stirred into a batter and baked to make farinata or panelle.
Chickpeas are popular in the Iberian Peninsula. In Portugal it is one of the main ingredients in Rancho, eaten with pasta, and meat, including Portuguese sausages, or with rice. They are also used in other hot dishes with bacalhau and in soup. In Spain, they are used cold in different tapas and salads, as well as in cocido madrileño. In Italy, chickpeas are eaten with pasta or in soup. In Egypt, they are used as a topping for kushari.
Hummus is the Arabic word for chickpeas, which are often cooked and ground into a paste and mixed with tahini (sesame seed paste), the blend called hummus bi tahini, or chickpeas are roasted, spiced, and eaten as a snack, such as leblebi. By the end of the 20th century, hummus had become commonplace in American cuisine; by 2010, five percent of Americans consumed hummus on a regular basis, and it was present in 17 percent of American households.
Some varieties of chickpeas can be popped and eaten like popcorn.
Chickpeas and Bengal grams are used to make curries and are one of the most popular vegetarian foods in the Indian subcontinent and in diaspora communities of many other countries. Popular dishes in Indian cuisine are made with chickpea flour, such as mirchi bajji and mirapakaya bajji Telugu. In India, as well as in the Levant, unripe chickpeas are often picked out of the pod and eaten as a raw snack and the leaves are eaten as a leaf vegetable in salads.
Chickpea flour is used to make "Burmese tofu" which was first known among the Shan people of Burma. The flour is used as a batter to coat various vegetables and meats before frying, such as with panelle, a chickpea fritter from Sicily. Chickpea flour is used to make the Mediterranean flatbread socca and a patty called panisse in Provence, southern France, made of cooked chickpea flour, poured into saucers, allowed to set, cut in strips, and fried in olive oil, often eaten during Lent.
In the Philippines, garbanzo beans preserved in syrup are eaten as sweets and in desserts such as halo-halo. Ashkenazi Jews traditionally serve whole chickpeas at a Shalom Zachar celebration for baby boys.
Chana masala, a popular dish from India
Raw chickpeas have a lower trypsin and chymotrypsin inhibitor content than peas, common beans and soybeans. This leads to higher nutritional values and fewer digestive problems in non-ruminants. Non-ruminant diets can be completed with 200g/kg of raw chickpeas to promote egg production and growth of birds and pigs. Higher amounts can be used when chickpeas are previously treated with heat.
Experiments have shown that ruminants grow equally well, and produce an equal amount and quality of milk when soybean or cereal meals are replaced with chickpeas. Pigs show the same performance, but growing pigs experience a negative effect of raw chickpea feed; extruded chickpeas can increase performance even in growing pigs. In poultry diet experiments with untreated chickpeas, only young broilers (starting period) showed worse performance. Fish performed equally well when their soybean or cereal diet was replaced by extruded chickpeas.
Secondary components of legumes, such as lecithin, polyphenols, oligosaccharides and amylase, protease, trypsin and chymotrypsin inhibitors can lead to lower nutrient availability and thus to negative effects in growth and health of animals (especially in non-ruminants). Ruminants have generally less problems to digest legumes with secondary components, since they can inactivate them in the rumen liquor. Their diets can be supplemented by 300g/kg or more raw chickpea seeds. However, protein digestibility and energy availability can be improved through various treatments, such as germination, dehulling and heat. Extrusion is a very good heat technique to destroy secondary components in legumes, since the proteins are irreversibly denatured. However, over-processing may decrease the nutritional value; it has been shown that extrusion leads to losses in minerals and vitamins, while dry heating does not change the chemical composition.
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||686 kJ (164 kcal)|
|Dietary fibre||7.6 g|
|Vitamin A equiv.||
|Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Chickpeas are a nutrient-dense food, providing rich content (> 20% of the Daily Value, DV) of protein, dietary fibre, folate, and certain dietary minerals such as iron and phosphorus. Thiamin, vitamin B6, magnesium and zinc contents are moderate, providing 10-16 percent of the DV (right table). Chickpeas have a Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score of about 76 percent, which is higher than fruits, vegetables, many other legumes, and cereals.
Compared to reference levels established by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization and World Health Organization, proteins in cooked and germinated chickpeas are rich in essential amino acids like lysine, isoleucine, tryptophan and total aromatic amino acids.
A 100 g serving of cooked chickpeas provides 164 kilocalories (690 kJ) (see table). Carbohydrates make up 68 percent of calories, most of which (84 percent) is starch, followed by total sugars and dietary fibre. Lipid content is 3 percent, 75 percent of which is unsaturated fatty acids for which linoleic acid comprises 43 percent of total fat.
Effects of cooking
Cooking treatments do not lead to variance in total protein and carbohydrate content. Soaking and cooking of dry seeds possibly induces chemical modification of protein-fibre complexes, which leads to an increase in crude fibre content. Thus, cooking can increase protein quality by inactivating or destroying heat-labile antinutritional factors. Cooking also increases protein digestibility, essential amino acid index, and protein efficiency ratio. Although cooking lowers concentrations of amino acids such as tryptophan, sulphur, lysine, total aromatic and sulphur-containing amino acids, their contents are still higher than proposed by the FAO/WHO reference. Diffusion of reducing sugars, raffinose, sucrose and others into cooking water reduces or completely removes these components. Cooking also significantly reduces fat and mineral contents. The B vitamins riboflavin, thiamin, niacin and pyridoxine dissolve into cooking water at differing amounts.
Germination of chickpeas improves protein digestibility, although at a lower rate than cooking. Germination degrades proteins to simple peptides, and so improves crude protein, non-protein nitrogen and crude fiber content. Germination decreases lysine, tryptophan, sulphur and total aromatic amino acids, but most contents are still higher than proposed by the FAO/WHO reference pattern.
Oligosaccharides, such as stachyose and raffinose, are reduced in higher amounts during germination than during cooking. Minerals and B vitamins are retained more effectively during germination than with cooking. Phytic acids are reduced significantly, but trypsin inhibitor, tannin and saponin reduction is less effective than cooking.
Autoclaving, microwave cooking, boiling
Protein digestibility is improved by all treatments of cooking. Essential amino acids are slightly increased by boiling and microwave cooking when compared to autoclaving and germination. Overall, microwave cooking leads to a significantly lower loss of nutrients compared to autoclaving and boiling.
Finally, all treatments lead to an improved protein digestibility, protein efficiency ratio and essential amino acid index. Microwave cooking seems to be an effective method to prepare chickpeas because of its improvement of nutritional values and its lower cooking time.
Malnutrition and insufficient micronutrient supply have been reported in many regions where chickpeas are a major part of the diet. However, this nutritional lack is not due to the consumption of chickpeas but due to the overall inadequate food supply for people. In some parts of the world, young chickpea leaves are consumed as cooked green vegetables. Especially in malnourished populations, it can supplement important dietary nutrients  Chickpea leaves have a significantly higher mineral content than cabbage and spinach. In natural settings, environmental factors and nutrient availability could influence mineral concentrations. Nevertheless, consumption of chickpea leaves is recommended for areas where chickpeas are produced as food for humans.
India is the world leader in chickpea (Bengal gram) production, and produces some fifteen times as much as the second-largest producer, Australia. Other key producers are Pakistan, Turkey, Burma, Ethiopia and Iran.
|Source: FAO||Source: FAO|
Pathogens in chickpeas are the main cause for yield loss (up to 90 percent). One example is Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cicero, present in most of the major pulse crop growing areas and causing regular yield damages between 10 and 15 percent. From 1978 until 1995 the worldwide number of pathogens increased from 49 to 172, of which 35 have been recorded in India. These pathogens originate from the groups of bacteria, fungi, viruses, mycoplasma and nematodes and show a high genotypic variation. The most widely distributed pathogens are Ascochyta rabiei (35 countries), Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cicero (32 countries) Uromyces ciceris-arietini (25 countries), bean (pea) leaf roll virus (23 countries), and Macrophomina phaseolina (21 countries). Ascochyta disease emergence is favored by wet weather; spores are carried to new plants by wind and water splash. 
The stagnation of yield improvement over the last decades is linked to the susceptibility to pathogens. Research for yield improvement, such as an attempt to increase yield from 0.8 tons per hectare to two tons per hectare by breeding cold-resistant varieties, is always linked with pathogen-resistance breeding as pathogens such as Ascochyta rabiei and Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cicero flourish in conditions such as cold temperature. Recently research started selecting favourable genes for pathogen resistance and other traits through marker-assisted selection. The use of this method is a promising sign for the future to achieve significant yield improvements.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Chickpea.|
- Chickpea, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics
- PlantVillage Chickpea entry with details on propagation, diseases and pests