Chickpeas, garbanzos or ceci beans are delicious with their slightly nutty flavor. Chickpeas are grown in a variety of colors including light green and red with light brown ones being most common. Chickpeas (Cicer arietinum) are irregularly shaped legumes related to the pea family of plants. The peas are harvested from an Asian plant that has short pods holding two peas each. Today the plants are grown around the world including West Asia, Mexico, India and the Mediterranean.
Chickpeas are easy to prepare, delicious and nutritious. They can be purchased as fresh, canned or dried beans.
Choosing the Best
Chickpeas are small odd-shaped shaped beans. As mentioned, the light brown beans are most popular in the United States and one reason is they have a softer hull. Light brown chickpeas are the Kabuli type of bean. The darker colored chickpeas are called the Desi type. They are generally smaller than the Kabuli beans.
Chickpeas, garbanzos and ceci beans are primarily sold canned and dried. You can find fresh beans in specialty grocery stores, but most people buy canned or dried beans. The dried beans are sold pre-packaged and in bulk. The canned beans are purchased more for convenience because the dried beans must be soaked before use. But the dried beans will have hulls that might have to be removed before being used in certain recipes like hummus.
When selecting dried beans, you want to buy only whole beans to insure you are getting the best. The beans should not be cracked or have indications of insect damage. In addition, you should only buy beans that have no sign of moisture.
Dried chickpeas, garbanzos or ceci beans can be stored easily in an airtight container. The container should then be kept in a dry cool place. The dried beans can be stored for up to 12 months.
Fresh garbanzo beans or garbanzos that have been cooked must be stored in the refrigerator. The chickpeas can last approximately 3 days when properly refrigerated.
Preparing and Cooking
Chickpeas are very versatile. The can be eaten fresh, boiled, mashed for dips, added to recipes and even ground into flour. Chickpea flour is called gram flour, garbanzo flour or besan, and is a good substitute flour for people who cannot eat wheat. You can easily find chickpea flour in specialty and health food stores.
Chickpeas are used as the main ingredient in hummus which is a delicious dip and spread. Many people enjoy making hummus from scratch by mashing the beans and adding some olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and other ingredients. You can add garbanzo beans to tossed and bean salads and pasta dishes. There are even recipes for chickpea salads. Chickpeas are also great in soups.
Following are some guidelines for preparing and cooking dried beans.
Preparing Beans for Soaking:
- Spread the beans on a flat surface and look for damaged or cracked beans
- Remove any small gravel or field debris
- Rinse the beans in a strainer
- Place 1 cup of beans and three cups of water in a saucepan
Soaking Method 1:
- Bring the water to a boil and boil beans for 2 to 5 minutes
- Remove the saucepan from the burner and let stand for 2 or more hours
Soaking Method 2:
- Soak the beans for at least eight hours or overnight in the pan of water in the refrigerator
Cooking the Beans
- After soaking the beans, skim off any hulls that came loose from the beans
- Drain the water used for soaking
- Add 3 cups of fresh water per 1 cup of beans
- Bring to a boil and then reduce heat
- Simmer for 1 ½ hours or longer until tender
- Skim foam off during simmering
- Drain beans
Presoaking the beans will break down the amount of natural sugars in the beans that cause flatulence. Fresh garbanzo beans can be boiled for 10 minutes until tender
Chickpeas, garbanzos and ceci beans are low in fat and cholesterol. These delicious beans can be used as an important source of dietary fiber, protein, potassium, calcium, folate and other vitamins and minerals. Many of the nutrients in chickpeas can help the body maintain normal cholesterol levels and reduce the chances of developing cardiovascular disease. A single serving of garbanzo beans supplies a day’s recommended protein also.
The following nutrients are found in 1 cup of chickpeas.
- Vitamin A – 44.3 I.U.
- Vitamin K – 6.6 mcg
- Folate – 282 mcg
- Calcium – 80.4 mg
- Magnesium – 78.7 mg
- Phosphorous – 276 mg
- Potassium – 477 mg
- Fat – 4 grams with no saturated fat
- Fiber – 12 grams
- Protein 15 grams
There’s no doubt about it! Chickpeas are loaded with healthy nutrients and should be regularly included in your dietary planning.
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