Domesticated chickpeas have been found in the aceramic levels of Jericho (PPNB) along with Cayönü in Turkey and in Neolithic pottery at Hacilar, Turkey. They were found in the late Neolithic (about 3500 BCE) at Thessaly, Kastanas, Lerna and Dimini. In southern France Mesolithic layers in a cave at L’Abeurador, Aude have yielded wild chickpeas carbon dated to 6790±90 BCE.
By the Bronze Age, chickpeas were known in Italy and Greece. In classical Greece, they were called erébinthos and eaten as a staple, a dessert, or consumed raw when young. The Romans knew several varieties such as Venus, ram, and Punic chickpeas. They were both cooked down into a broth and roasted as a snack. The Roman gourmet Apicius gives several recipes for chickpeas. Carbonized chickpeas have been found at the Roman legion fort at Neuss (Novaesium), Germany in layers from the first century CE, along with rice.
The plant grows to between 20–50 cm (8–20 inches) high and has small feathery leaves on either side of the stem. Chickpeas are a type of pulse, with one seedpod containing two or three peas. It has white flowers with blue, violet or pink veins. Chickpeas need a subtropical or tropical climate with more than 400 millimeters (16 in) of annual rain. They can be grown in a temperate climate but yields will be much lower.
There are two main kinds of chickpea:
Kabuli, which has lighter colored, larger seeds and a smoother coat, mainly grown in Southern Europe, Northern Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Chile, also introduced during the 18th century to India.
The Desi (meaning ‘country’ or ‘local’ in Hindi) is also known as Bengal gram or kala chana (black chickpea in both Hindi and Urdu) or chhola boot. Kabuli (meaning ‘from Kabul‘ in Hindi, since they were thought to have come from Afghanistan when first seen in India) or safed chana is the kind widely grown throughout the Mediterranean, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Desi is likely the earliest form since it closely resembles seeds found both on archaeological sites and the wild plant ancestor (Cicer reticulatum) of domesticated chickpeas, which only grows in southeast Turkey, where it is believed to have originated. Desi chickpeas have markedly higher fiber content than Kabulis and hence a very low glycemic index which may make them suitable for people with blood sugar problems. The Desi type is used to make Chana Dal, which is a split chickpea with the skin removed.
An uncommon black chickpea “ceci Neri” is grown only in Puglia, Italy. These chickpeas are larger and blacker than the desi “kala chana” variety.
Basic Nutrition Values
A 100 g serving of chickpea flour provides 387 calories, 22 g of protein, 6.7 g of fat, .7 g of saturated fat, 58 g of carbohydrates, 10.8 g of dietary fiber and 64 mg of sodium, according to the website Nutrition Value. Chickpea flour is loaded with vitamins and minerals. It is particularly high in folate or vitamin B9, thiamin or vitamin B1, vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, copper and manganese. It is a good food source of other micronutrients, such as vitamin K and zinc. Few other flour substitutes, with the exception of soy flour, are more nutrient-rich.
A 100 g serving of chickpea flour provides 437 mcg of folate, meeting over 100 percent of the recommended daily value or DV for this nutrient; 32 percent for thiamin; 25 percent for vitamin B6 and 11 percent for vitamin K. All of the B vitamins support nervous system function and aid in energy metabolism or converting food into usable energy for your cells. Vitamin B6 is important for forming red blood cells while folate is particularly important for preventing neural tube defects during pregnancy and promoting cardiovascular health. Folate, along with vitamin B12, helps reduce levels of homocysteine in the bloodstream. Elevated levels of this amino acid in the body may damage the lining of your arteries and promote the development of blockages in your blood vessels.
Minerals and Dietary Fiber
A 100 g serving of besan meets 41.5 percent of the DV for magnesium; 24 percent for potassium; 32 percent for phosphorus; 27 percent for iron and 19 percent for zinc. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans reports that children, adolescents and adults in the US do not consume enough magnesium-potassium- and fiber-rich foods. The minerals are important for maintaining strong bones, regulating blood pressure, aiding in energy metabolism and muscle contraction. Dietary fiber promotes regular bowel movements. In addition, iron and zinc may be deficient in the diets of older Americans. Iron plays a role in transporting oxygen throughout the bloodstream. Both nutrients support a healthy immune system and zinc helps regulate blood sugar, promotes wound healing and performs other functions.
There are two main types of gram or chickpea flour, roasted and unroasted, also referred to as toasted or untoasted. While roasting does not change the nutritive values, it does alter the flavor. Roasted chickpea flour is made from dried chickpeas that are briefly roasted first; the unroasted one is made straight from unroasted dried chickpeas. Ethnic cuisines worldwide, from India to the Middle East to Italy to Provence, France, use chickpea flour. It is extremely versatile, in addition to being a nutrient powerhouse.
Indian cuisine incorporates chickpea flour into more dishes than other cultures. It is used as a thickener and to make pancakes and fritters, such as chilla, an Indian “street” or fast food. In the Middle East, chickpea flour is an important ingredient for making falafel, deep-fried chickpea ‘balls.’ French Provençal chefs use chickpea flour to make socca, a pancake popular in Nice. Liguria, Italy is known for ‘panissa,’ a chickpea flour-based polenta. For vegan recipes, you can replace eggs with equal parts chickpea flour and water. If you do not eat it, you can wear it, literally. Indian women make a paste composed of besan and water or yogurt and apply it to their face as an exfoliant