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Fossil range: {{{fossil_range}}}
Left: Bengal variety; right: European variety
Left: Bengal variety; right: European variety
Plant Info
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Scientific classification
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Kingdom: Plantae
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Division: Magnoliophyta
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Class: Magnoliopsida
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Superorder: {{{superordo}}}
Order: Fabales
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Superfamily: {{{superfamilia}}}
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Faboideae
Supertribe: {{{supertribus}}}
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Genus: Cicer
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Species: C. arietinum
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Binomial name
Cicer arietinum
Trinomial name
Type Species


The chickpea, chick pea, garbanzo bean, ceci bean, bengal gram, hummus, chana or channa (Cicer arietinum) is an edible legume (English "pulse") of the family Fabaceae, subfamily Faboideae.

The plant grows to between 20 and 50 cm high and has small feathery leaves on both sides of the stem. One seedpod contains two or three peas. The flowers are white- or reddish-blue. Chickpeas need a subtropical or tropical climate and more than 400 mm annual rain. They can be grown in a temperate climate, but yields will be much lower. It is often used as an alternative protein product with vegetarians and vegans and is one of the plants with the highest amount of protein.



There are two types of chickpea:

  • Desi - "with small, dark seeds and a rough coat (prevailing in the Indian Subcontinent, Ethiopia, Mexico, Iran)"
  • Kabuli - "with light-coloured, larger seeds and a smoother coat (mainly grown in Southern Europe, Northern Africa, Afghanistan, Chile, and introduced in the 18th century to the Indian Subcontinent)"[1]

The Desi form is also known as Bengal gram or kala chana. The Kabuli form is the kind grown, for example, in the Mediterranean today. The Desi-type closely resembles those seeds found on archaeological sites and the wild ancestor, so it is probably the earlier form. Desi-type chickpeas are said to have a very low glycemic index[2] making them suitable for many people with blood sugar problems.

Cultivation and uses

The chickpea is grown in the Mediterranean, western Asia, and the Indian Subcontinent. The wild ancestor of domesticated chickpeas is Cicer reticulatum. As this only grows in southeast Turkey, this is the most likely locus of domestication.

Domestically, chickpeas can be sprouted all year round, within a few days, using 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 in primarily in Pakistani and Indian cuisine), ground and shaped in balls and fried as falafel, 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 (e.g. leblebi). In India and Pakistan, where they are referred to as "chana," chickpeas provid e a major source of protein in a predominantly vegetarian culture. Chickpea flour is used as a batter to coat various vegetables and meats before frying, and is used to made panelle, a type of chickpea fritter from Sicily.[1] Popular Indian dishes made with chickpea flour include mirchi bajji or mirapakaya bajji telugu. Chickpea flour is also used to make "Burmese tofu," a food originating with the Shan people of Burma. Unripe chickpeas are often picked out of the pod and eaten as a raw snack in many parts of India, and the plants are eaten there as a green vegetable in salads.

History of chickpeas

Domesticated chickpeas are first known from the aceramic levels of Jericho (PPNB) and Cayönü in Turkey and the pottery Neolithic in Hacilar, Turkey. They are found in the late Neolithic in Thessaly, at Kastanas, Lerna and Dimini at ca. 3500 BCE. In the southern French cave of L'Abeurador Dept., Aude, wild chickpeas have been found in Mesolithic layers, dated by radiocarbon dating to 6790±90 BCE.[3]

By the Bronze Age, they were known in Italy and Greece. In classical Greece, they were called erébinthos, eaten both as a staple and as a dessert, and consumed raw when young. The Romans knew of several varieties, for example venus, ram and punic chickpeas. They were cooked into a broth and roasted as a snack. The Roman gourmet Apicius gives several recipes for chickpeas. Carbonised chickpeas have been found at the Roman legionary fort at Neuss (Novaesium), Germany in layers of the 1st century CE, along with rice.

Chickpeas are mentioned in Charlemagne's Capitulare de villis (ca. 800 CE) as cicer italicum, to be grown in each imperial demesne. Albertus Magnus mentions three varieties: red, white, and black. According to Culpeper, "chick-pease or cicers" are less "windy" than peas and more nourishing. Placed under the dominion of Venus, they offered a number of medical uses, including increasing sperm and milk, provoking menstruation and urine, and helping to treat kidney stones. Wild cicers were thought to be especially potent.

Chickpeas were grown in some areas of Germany for use as a coffee substitute in the First World War.

Production trends

Chickpea output in 2005
Top Ten Chickpea Producers — 2005
(1000 tonnes)
Template:IND 5,470
Template:PAK 868
Template:TUR 610
Template:MYA 530
Template:IRN 310
Template:ETH 216
Template:MEX 133
Template:AUS 116
Template:CAN 103
Template:SYR 65
World Total 8,421
UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO)


The name "chickpea" derives ultimately from the Latin name cicer through the French chiche. The Roman surname Cicero is derived from this plant. The word "garbanzo" comes from the Spanish language, an alteration (perhaps influenced by Old Spanish garroba or algarroba) of the Old Spanish arvanço, perhaps from Greek erebinthos .[4]


Chickpeas are a good source of zinc[5], folate a nd protein.[6] They are also very high in dietary fiber and thus are a healthy food source, especially as a source of carbohydrates for persons with insulin sensitivity or diabetes. They are low in fat, and most of the fat content is polyunsaturated.

One hundred grams of mature boiled chickpeas contains 164 calories, 2.6 grams of fat (of which only 0.27 gram is saturated), 7.6 grams of dietary fiber, and 8.9 grams of protein.

Chickpeas are also a significant source of calcium (190 mg/100 g). Some sources quote it as equal to yogurt and close to milk. According to the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, on an average, chickpea seed contains:

  • 23% protein
  • 64% total carbohydrates (of which: * 47% starch * 6% soluble sugar)
  • 5% fat
  • 6% crude fiber
  • 3% ash

They also report high 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)

In addition, chick peas and bengal grams make excellent curries and are one of the most popular vegetarian food in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and UK.

Plant photos


  1. Mansfeld's World Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Crops
  2. David Mendosa: Chana Dal
  3. Daniel Zohary and Maria Hopf, Domestication of Plants in the Old World, third edition (Oxford: University Press, 2000), pp. 110f
  4. "Garbanzo"
  5. Vegetarian Information Sheet: Zinc
  6. Vegetarian Information Sheet: Protein

See also

External links


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