Cicer arietinum L.
Common Names: Garbanzo Bean (Spanish), Ceci bean (Italian), Sanagalu (Telegu), Chana (Hindi, Urdu), Hummus (Arabic), Egyptian Peas, or Bengal gram.
There are two main types of chickpeas, the Kabuli type and the Desi type.
Kabuli type is also known as Garbanzo bean or Ceci Bean and Desi type is also known as the black chickpea or Bengal gram or Kala chana.
Kabuli Chickpea (Garbanzo Bean)
The is the one commonly referred to as Garbanzo Bean or Ceci Bean. It’s relatively round and cream coloured with a smooth seed coat.
The name Kabuli, literally means “from Kabul”, because it was thought to come from Kabul, Afghanistan, when it was first introduced to India and later to Africa.
Kabuli chickpea is mainly grown in the Mediterranean region, South America, and in Southeast Asia.
Most of the chickpea we buy in North America and Europe, especially the canned ones, are the Kabuli type. It usually has a nutty, mild flavour and remains crunchy even after being fully cooked. It cooks faster and has less dietary fibre than those of the Desi type.
It’s also the one finely milled into Italian flour called farina di ceci’ or Ceci flour (chickpea flour). The French call it ‘farine de pois chiches’. (FAO.ORG)
This is the one referred to as: Bengal Gram, Kala Chana (meaning black chickpea) or Chola Boot.
“Desi” chickpea is smaller, light to dark brown, with a thick, rough, seed coat.
It is mainly grown in India, East Africa, Mexico, and Iran.
The dark seed coat is usually removed, then the seed is split in half to produce ‘Chana Dahl’, Chana Dal, or Bengal gram, also known as split desi-chickpea or yellow gram. About 80% of the Desi Chickpeas produced make Chana Dahl, and 80% of this split form are ground into a flour called Besan.
There are several processing plants in Saskatchewan, Canada, which dehull and split desi chick peas. (North American Grain).
Desi chickpea is also ground into Besan flour or Yellow Gram Flour. The word ‘Desi‘ means ‘country‘ or ‘local‘ in Hindustani.
Desi chickpeas have a markedly higher fibre content than other varieties and a lower glycemic Index.
Nutrition of Chickpeas
Chickpeas are a rich source of protein and carbohydrates and are also rich in iron, copper, zinc, phosphorus, potassium, manganese and fibre. They’re also known to improve blood sugar levels due to their low glycemic index.
Use of ‘Kabuli type’ or Garbanzo Beans
Mature chickpeas or Garbanzo beans can be cooked and eaten cold in salads, cooked in soups and stews, ground and shaped into balls and fried as falafel or cooked with rice or other foods. Chickpea is also an ingredient of weaning foods for babies.
Canned chickpeas are popular in the United States and in Europe
Chickpeas can also be ground into Ceci Flour or chickpea flour (used in Italy to make farinata or panelle).
Hummus is the Arabic word for chickpeas, which are often cooked, ground into a paste and mixed with tahini (sesame seed paste).
Immature seeds are consumed fresh, or roasted and salted as snacks.
Use of ‘Desi Type’ Chana Dal or Yellow Gram
It’s mainly used to make Dahl or used in soups and stews.
Desi chickpea is also ground into Besan flour or Yellow Gram flour.
There are also some intermediate cultivars namely Bambai chickpea that is dark but slightly larger than Desi and is popular in the Indian subcontinent and an uncommon black chickpea, ceci neri, larger and darker than the Desi variety, and grown only in Apulia, in southeastern Italy. (FAO.ORG). These intermediate cultivars are not covered here.