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All About Chickpeas

Recipes with Chickpeas

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One of the most popular and widely used legumes in the Middle Eastern diet is the chickpea. Chickpeas are also called garbanzo beans in Spanish cooking and ceci beans in Italian.

Chickpea History

The chickpea originated in the Middle East about 7500 years ago. It was first cultivated about 3000 BC and was popular among the ancient Romans, Greeks and Egyptians. It was not until the 16th century that the chickpea was brought to other parts of the world by Spanish explorers.

Today, chickpeas are popular among all parts of the world, more so in North Africa, Spain and India, where the chickpea is a staple for India's largely vegetarian cuisine.

Types of Chickpeas

There are two types of chickpeas: desi and kabuli. Desi contains smaller, darker seeds and have more of a rough coat. Kabuli is a larger, lighter colored bean with a smoother coat.

Chickpeas come in a variety of colors - Green, black, brown and red, though the most popular and recognized color is beige. They have a buttery texture and nutty taste.

Health Benefits of Chickpeas

There are many health benefits to eating chickpeas. Their high protein content is perfect for those wishing to replace red meat in their diet. Chickpeas are also high in fiber and help to lower cholesterol.

Buying Chickpeas

Chickpeas can be bought both dried or canned, are available all year round, and are easy to store. If concerned with the nutritional content between dried and canned chickpeas, unlike most other canned vegetables, chickpeas do not lose any nutrients when canned, so the choice of dried or canned is up to the buyer.

Dried chickpeas and can be bought already packaged, or in the bulk bin area of your local supermarket. If buying dried, inspect the beans to make sure they were stored in a covered container, are whole, unblemished, and have no moisture damage.

Dried chickpeas can be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place of your kitchen for up to 12 months. Once chickpeas are cooked, they can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Cooking with Chickpeas

Today, chickpeas are used in a large variety of recipes. By themselves they can be used in salads, soups or stews, or as a quick snack. In India, where the chickpea is known as "chana", a large number of recipes are based on the chickpea. The chickpea is the main ingredient in many Middle Eastern dishes, like falafel, where it is ground and shaped into balls, and in hummus, where is is cooked, ground and made into a dip.
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