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Chickpea

An Introduction to Chickpeas
Chickpeas are edible legumes belonging to the family of 'Fabaceae' with slightly round & irregular shape, and are slightly longer in size than the normal peas. They are also known by the names of 'garbanzo beans', and have a nut like taste with a high protein content in them. The plants of the chickpeas grow between 20-25 cm and have feathery leaves on both sides of the stem. The scientific name of chickpeas is 'Cicer arietinum', and they are also known as 'chana' in Hindi and several other names like 'Bengal Gram', 'Kadaale Kaalu', 'Sanaga Pappu', 'Shimbra', etc. Chickpeas can grow well only in sub tropical and tropical climates requiring an annual rainfall of more than 400 mm.
Types of Chickpeas
Chickpeas come in two basic varieties. These are:
  • Desi Chickpeas: These are split peas and are relatively smaller in size with dark, small seeds and a rough coat. Desi peas are also known as 'Bengal gram' or 'kala chana'. They are mostly cultivated in India, Mexico, Ethiopia and Iran. Desi chickpeas have a remarkably high fiber content and are thus suitable for people suffering from diabetes
  • Kabuli Chickpeas: These chickpeas are light, almost whitish cream in color, with larger seeds and a smoother coat as compared to the desi chickpeas. Introduced in India during the 18th century, the kabuli chickpeas are mainly grown in Southern Europe, Northern Africa, Chile and Afghanistan.
 
History of Chickpeas

Chickpeas have a history that goes back to as far as 10,000 BC and even more. These are one of the ancient crops that were used by the hunters for sustaining their lives. The area that first began to grow chickpeas was the Middle East but later they were being grown in ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece during 7500 BC, where these were consumed in various forms like raw, broth, snacks, etc. They were later brought during the 16th century by the Spanish explorers, and since then chickpeas have been used in many forms. In fact, during the First World War, Germany started cultivating chickpeas as a coffee substitute.   
 
Cultivation of Chickpeas
Chickpeas can withstand drought conditions, and are therefore, ideally suited for cultivation in areas which are relatively cooler and have a low level of rainfall. Since they are very sensitive to excess water, they grow well on sandy soils, but having an appropriate drainage conditions. Chickpeas are rabi crops that are grown in India during the periods of September to November. While desi type chickpeas take 95-105 days to mature, kabuli types chickpeas take 100-110 days to mature. The harvesting of chickpeas is done during the months of February, March and April. At times, chickpeas are also grown on a rotation basis, along with other crops like jowar, bajra, wheat and coriander.

Nutritional Elements of Chickpeas
Chickpeas are healthy as they contain many nutritional elements that are deemed necessary for the proper growth of our body. Chickpeas contain many vital vitamins like Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, B2 and B3, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Folate and Pantothenic acid. They also contain many important minerals like calcium, iron, molybdenum, potassium, manganese, copper, zinc, etc. Other nutrients that are found in chickpeas are dietary fibers, carbohydrates, proteins, water, etc.
 
Benefits of Consuming Chickpeas
The various benefits arising out of the consumption of chickpeas are:
  • As chickpea are rich in dietary fibers, both soluble and insoluble, they help a lot in reducing the level of cholesterol and also in  preventing the blood sugar level from rising too much immediately after having a meal
  • Being a rich source if molybdenum, chickpeas help in detoxifying sulphites, which can otherwise cause rapid heartbeats or headache if consumed too much by sulphite sensitive people. Too much reaction to sulphite is caused mainly due to lack of molybdenum to detoxify them
  • The presence of iron in chickpeas helps in replenishing lost energy, particularly for women who are menstruating or when they are pregnant. Also, chickpeas are low on calories and virtually fat free
  • Chickpeas are also high on trace minerals like manganese which is an important part of many energy producing enzymes. Iron also helps in improving the hemoglobin level, thereby improving the flow of blood to the heart.
Major Chickpeas Producers in the World
Chickpeas are a versatile crop that are grown in almost every part of the globe today. Some of the major producers of desi chickpeas are India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Australia and Bangladesh while the top producers of kabuli chickpeas are Turkey, Iran, Spain, Canada, Syria, USA, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Tunisia, Sudan, Malawi and Portugal. India is the largest producer of chickpeas followed by Pakistan, Turkey and Iran. In fact, about 70% of the total world production of chickpeas is dominated by India.