Chick Peas

Cicer arietinum
Cicer arietinum

Chick peas, garbanzo beans, hummos, chana, cici beans – all words that describe the same bean. The OED traces the name of chick peas from French (chiche) to Latin (cicer – where we get the name Cicero). The word “chick pea” appears during the mid-18th century. Garbanzo comes from the Old Spanish “calavance” and is thought to perhaps find its true root in the Greek “erebinthos”. Botanists call them “Cicer arietinum”.

The chick pea has been found as early on the Neolithic period and provides an important cornerstone in the cuisines of the Near East, India, and Pakistan. According to Mansfeld’s World Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Crops, there are two types of chick pea:

  • 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, Pakistan and Chile, also introduced during the 18th century to the Indian subcontinent.

Chick pea plants are drought-resistant due to their deep taproot system. They are most commonly found in the cuisine of West Asia, which includes the regions known as the Near East. These cuisines are diverse but include common elements including chick peas, mint, olive oil, and honey.

Chick peas are an excellent source of protein supplying 30 grams of protein per cup of cooked chickpeas with 24 grams of dietary fiber. For cultures where vegetarianism is common (such as India) or for those trying a more vegetarian diet in light of rising food prices and adopting a healthier lifestyle chick peas are a wonderfully versatile protein source.

Here’s a quick and tasty recipe using garbanzo beans. With very few ingredients and the option to either use canned or fresh makes this a great dish for those evenings where you don’t want to really put much work or thought into dinner.

Tomatoes and Chick Peas

2 medium onions, cut in 1/2″ dice
3T olive oil
1 quart chick peas (16oz can)
1 quart canned tomatoes (16oz can)
salt
pepper
cumin
fenugreek
feta cheese

  • Heat up a large frying pan and add olive oil.
  • Once the olive oil is hot, add in the onions.
  • Add a pinch of salt.
  • Cook the onions until they are about halfway cooked.
  • Drain the chickpeas and add those.
  • Add the canned tomatoes.
  • Season with salt, pepper, cumin, and fenugreek to taste.
  • When everything is hot, remove from heat.
  • Put everything in a pot and top with crumbled feta cheese.
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About Jenn

Jennifer writes about Food History and other food-related topics on her personal blog when she is not working full time, spending time with her family, or being a full-time student.
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