Sunday, May 1, 2005

Apple #64: Garbanzo Beans

The other day, I went out to dinner and someone I was with got a salad that had garbanzo beans in it. I haven't had garbanzo beans in quite a while, though I do like them. I was sort of envious of the garbanzo beans, and then I started wondering about them. Why are the also called "chick peas"? How do they grow? Where do they come from?

Growing them

  • "Garbanzo beans" is what the Spanish call "chick peas." I suppose, since Spanish is not my first (or even second) language, I should call them "chick peas," but I like the word "garbanzo" better.
  • Garbanzo beans are a legume, part of the pea family. They may be one of the oldest cultivated beans, known to have been grown as far back as 5400 B.C. Most garbanzo beans are beige, but they may also be red or brown or black.
  • India is the main grower of garbanzo beans, accounting for 60% of world production in 2001. Turkey, Spain, Pakistan, and Algeria have traditionally been big garbanzo bean exporters, but recently Canada and Australia have also entered the picture.
  • According to one person in the UK, you can take any old garbanzo beans you buy from the store and put them in a dish of water until they sprout. You have to change the water each day to keep it fresh. After they've sprouted, you can plant them and they'll grow into bushy plants that look kind of like ferns.
  • They produce flowers, and then pods. Each pod has maybe 2-3 peas in them. Some people pick the pods while they're still green and then dry them; others wait until the pods dry on the vine before picking.

This is what fresh garbanzo beans look like, still in the pods.
(photo from Erin's Kitchen, a blog about eating in NY City)

This is what the beans look like dried.
(photo from Grains Canada)

Eating them
  • One serving of garbanzo beans -- which is one cup, and come to think of it, that's a lot of the little guys -- gives you half of your day's supply of fiber. It also gives you a hefty 29% of the protein you need in a given day, and 26% of iron.
  • I remember hearing, once upon a time, that garbanzo beans have a lot of fat in them. They do have 2% of your daily allotment of saturated fat, but I'm thinking, if it's a choice between garbanzo beans and cheese, for example, the garbanzo beans are probably the better option.
  • Garbanzo beans are the main ingredient in hummus, which is a dip that's really good with warm pita bread, and also of falafel. One website says you can also use garbanzo beans as a substitute for coffee.
  • Falafel are like meatballs, except made of garbanzo beans and fried. If you've never had it before, it may sound weird (I'm imagining the face my mother might make if I described this to her), but they're really tasty, especially if you serve them in a pita roll with yogurt sauce.
Falafel Recipe
  • Ingredients:
    • 8 oz dried chickpeas, or 8 oz. canned
    • 1 onion, finely chopped
    • 1 garlic clove, crushed
    • 1 slice of white bread, soaked in some water
    • 1/4 tsp cayenne
    • 1 tsp coriander, ground
    • 1 tsp cumin, ground
    • 2 tsp parsley, finely chopped
    • salt, to taste
    • oil for frying
  • If chickpeas are dried, soak overnight, then rinse and cook in fresh water for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until tender.
  • Mash, do not blend, chickpeas until pureed.
  • Squeeze water from the soaked bread and add to chickpeas along with all other ingredients, except oil. Knead until well-mixed.
  • Let the mixture rest in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours, then roll between the palms to make firm balls about 1 inch in size. It helps if palms are wetted.
  • Put oil in pan until about 1 inch deep, heat to 360 degrees F and fry the balls, a few at a time, until nicely brown all over. Takes about 2-3 minutes per ball.
  • Drain on paper towel.
  • Serve hot with lemon wedges or in pita with lettuce, tomato, and yogurt sauce.
Growing chickpea in the northern Great Plains, Montana State University Extension Service, 2002
How to grow chickpeas, the Gardener's Cooksite
Walton Feed's page on The Legumes. Lots of really interesting information here about beans in general.
101Cookbooks, March 19, 2005 page. Apparently, this woman is trying out recipes from her 101 cookbooks and posting the recipes she likes best. Some tasty-looking vegetarian dishes on this page.
Nutrition data for chickpeas. This nutrition data site is pretty cool. It gives a ton of information about each food item, including charts that make it easy to see what elements the food gives you a lot of, and also what other foods might be better substitutes. You can also change the serving size and see how the data changes. Really, this site rocks.
Falafel recipe from the epicentre

1 comment:

  1. I'm Mexican and we called them garbanzo, thank you for your post, I will try to grow them.


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