AskDefine | Define chickpea

Dictionary Definition



1 the seed of the chickpea plant [syn: garbanzo]
2 Asiatic herb cultivated for its short pods with one or two edible seeds [syn: chickpea plant, Egyptian pea, Cicer arietinum]
3 large white roundish Asiatic legume; usually dried [syn: garbanzo]

User Contributed Dictionary



Alternative spellings


  1. An annual Asian plant (Cicer arietinum) in the pea family, widely cultivated for the edible seeds in its short inflated pods.
  2. A seed of this plant, often used as a food.




Extensive Definition

The chickpea (Cicer arietinum) (also garbanzo bean, Indian pea, ceci bean, bengal gram, chana, kadale kaalu, sanaga pappu, shimbra) is an edible legume of the family Fabaceae, subfamily Faboideae. Chickpeas are high in protein, and one of the earliest cultivated vegetables. 7,500-year-old remains have been found in the Middle East.


The name chickpea traces back through the French chiche to Latin cicer (from which the Roman surname Cicero was taken). The word garbanzo comes from Old Spanish (perhaps influenced by Old Spanish garroba or algarroba) through arvanço which may be linked to the Greek erebinthos.


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 are found in the late Neolithic (about 3500 BCE) at Thessaly, Kastanas, Lerna and Dimini. In southern France Mesolithic layers in a cave at L'Abeurador, Aude have yielded wild chickpeas carbon dated to 6790±90 BCE.
By the Bronze Age chickpeas were known in Italy and Greece. In classical Greece they were called erébinthos and eaten as a staple, a dessert or consumed raw when young. The Romans knew several varieties such as venus, ram and punic chickpeas. They were both cooked down into a broth and roasted as a snack. The Roman gourmet Apicius gives several recipes for chickpeas. Carbonized chickpeas have been found at the Roman legion fort at Neuss (Novaesium), Germany in layers from the 1st century CE, along with rice.
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. 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. Wild cicers were thought to be especially strong and helpful.
Chickpeas were grown in some areas of Germany as a coffee substitute called chickamuddle during the First World War .


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.


There are two main kinds of chickpea:
  • Desi, which has small, darker seeds and a rough coat, cultivated mostly in the Indian subcontinent, Ethiopia, Mexico and Iran.
  • Kabuli, which has lighter coloured, larger seeds and a smoother coat, mainly grown in Southern Europe, Northern Africa, Afghanistan and Chile, also introduced during the 18th century to the Indian subcontinent)"
The Desi (meaning country or local in Hindi) is also known as Bengal gram or kala chana. Kabuli (meaning from Kabul in Hindi, since they were thought to have come from Afghanistan when first seen in India) is the kind widely grown throughout the Mediterranean. Desi is likely the earliest form since it closely resembles seeds found both on archaeological sites and the wild plant ancestor of domesticated chickpeas (cicer reticulatum) which only grows in southeast Turkey, where it is believed to have originated. Desi chickpeas have a markedly higher fiber content than Kabulis and hence a very low glycemic index which may make them suitable for people with blood sugar problems.

Cultivation and use

Chickpeas 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 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 are used to make curries and are one of the most popular vegetarian foods in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the UK. On the Indian subcontinent chickpeas are called kadale kaalu (Kannada), chana (Hindi and other Indic languages),Chhola(Bengali), 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. Ashkenazi Jews traditionally serve whole chickpeas at a Shalom Zachar celebration for baby boys.


India is the world leader in chickpea production followed by Pakistan and Turkey.


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 the same as yogurt and close to milk. According to the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics chickpea seeds contain on average:
  • 23% protein
  • 64% total carbohydrates (47% starch, 6% soluble sugar)
  • 5% fat
  • 6% crude fiber
  • 3% ash
There is also a high reported mineral content:
  • phosphorus (340 mg/100 g)
  • calcium (190 mg/100 g)
  • magnesium (140 mg/100g)
  • iron (7 mg/100 g)
  • zinc (3 mg/100 g)


See also

chickpea in Arabic: حمص (نبات)
chickpea in Bulgarian: Нахут
chickpea in Catalan: Cigró
chickpea in Danish: Kikært
chickpea in German: Kichererbse
chickpea in Dhivehi: ސަނާ މުގު
chickpea in Modern Greek (1453-): Ρεβιθιά
chickpea in Spanish: Cicer arietinum
chickpea in Esperanto: Kikero
chickpea in French: Pois chiche
chickpea in Galician: Garavanzo
chickpea in Hindi: चना
chickpea in Indonesian: Chickpea
chickpea in Italian: Cicer arietinum
chickpea in Hebrew: חימצה
chickpea in Lithuanian: Sėjamasis avinžirnis
chickpea in Malayalam: കടല
chickpea in Dutch: Kikkererwt
chickpea in Japanese: ヒヨコマメ
chickpea in Neapolitan: Cicero
chickpea in Norwegian: Kikert
chickpea in Pushto: نخود
chickpea in Polish: Ciecierzyca pospolita
chickpea in Portuguese: Grão-de-bico
chickpea in Romanian: Năut
chickpea in Russian: Нут (растение)
chickpea in Sicilian: Cìciru
chickpea in Serbian: Леблебија
chickpea in Finnish: Kikherne
chickpea in Swedish: Kikärt
chickpea in Tagalog: Garbansos
chickpea in Telugu: శనగలు
chickpea in Turkish: Nohut
chickpea in Walloon: Poes d' souke
chickpea in Chinese: 鹰嘴豆
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