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chickpea, garbanzo bean or bengal gram (Cicer arietinum)
is an edible pulse of the Leguminosae or Fabaceae family,
subfamily Faboideae or Papilionoideae.
The plant is 20-50 cm high and has small feathery leaves on both sides of the
stem. One seed-pod contains 2-3 peas. The flowers are white or reddish blue. Chickpeas
need a warm climate and more than 400 mm annual rain.
dozen distinct chickpea varieties are cultivated. European varieties are large
(typically around 15 mm diameter) and most commonly pale yellow. There were several
other varieties, with black and reddish seeds that are rarely grown today. The
black variety was mainly used as fodder. Asian varieties are smaller (typically
5-8 mm) and dark brown in color. The chickpea is not known in a wild state. It
is grown in the Mediterranean, western Asia and India. In India the plants are eaten
as salad as well.
can be eaten in salads, cooked in stews, ground into a flour called gram
flour (also known as besan, and used in Indian cuisine), ground
and shaped in balls and fried as falafel, cooked and ground into
a paste called hummus, or roasted and spiced and
eaten as a snack. The plant can also be used as a green vegetable.
chickpeas are first known from the aceramic levels of Jericho (PPNB)
and Cayönü in Turkey
and the pottery neolithic Neolithic in Hacilar, Turkey. They are found
in the late Neolithic in Thessaly, at Kastanas,
Lerna and Dimini at ca. 3500
BC. In the southern French cave of L'Abeurador Dept. Aude chickpeas have been found in
Mesolithic layers, dated to
6790+90 BC with the radiocarbon method.
the Bronze age they were known
in Italy and Greece. In classical
Greece, they were called erébinthos, and eaten both as a staple and as dessert,
raw when young. The Romans knew several varieties known, for example venus-, ram-
and punic chickpeas. They were eaten as a broth and roasted as a snack. The
Roman gourmet Apicius gives several receipes
for chickpeas. Carbonised chickpeas have been found at the Roman legionary
fort at Neuss
(Novaesium), Germany in layers of the 1st century AD, as well as rice.
are mentioned in Charlemagne's Capitulare de
villis (ca. 800 AD) as cicer italicum, to be grown in each imperial demesne. Albertus
Magnus knows three varieties, red, white and black. According to Culpeper "chick-pease
or cicers" are less "windy" than peas and more nourishing. They are under the
dominion of Venus and have a number
of medical uses: they increase sperm and milk, provoke menstruation and urine
and are helpful against kidney-stones. The wild cicers were thought to be especially
were grown in some areas of Germany up to the WW1, afterwards they were used as
has been suggested (among other explanations) that the chickenpox disease gets its
name from chick peas, which resembled the chickenpox blisters that appeared on the