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Home Grow Your Own Grow Your Own

Chickpeas – hummus for nothing and your chicks for free

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When is a pea not a pea? When it’s a garbanzo bean. But that’s not the end to this riddle, oh no, because garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas) aren’t technically beans either!

You see, while all beans are legumes, not all legumes are beans; some are peas and some are nuts, for example.

Now, if this all sounds just a bit too nutty to take, then don’t! Let’s just call them ‘tasty’ and move on with how to actually grow them, shall we?

What are chickpeas anyway?

Growing to roughly 50cm in height and width, chickpea plants (Cicer arietinum) are bushy annuals with dark green leaves and white or violet flowers. They typically produce a number of pods with 1-3 chickpeas in each.

Those keen on these beans (I mean, legumes!) should consider planting approximately 3-5 plants or so per member of the household to ensure a healthy supply.

Where, when and how to plant

Grown similarly to broad beans, chickpeas are relatively easy to cultivate.

While seeds can be sown towards the beginning of spring – depending on the severity of frost in your area, either slightly before or after the last frost – or germinated a little earlier indoors.

Ideally, outdoor temperatures should be around the 18-25 degrees Celsius mark, with soil temperature preferably 20 degrees or higher, for plants to thrive.

Begin by locating a section of the garden where plants will bask in full sun. Try digging in a little seaweed prior to planting for an extra boost.

To prevent seeds from cracking do not soak prior to sowing and avoid watering heavily.

Sow at a depth of 3-4cm, spaced roughly 20-30cm apart.

While corn, potatoes, cucumbers, celery and even strawberries make good bedfellows, it is not advisable to plant chickpeas alongside garlic.

Care

Aside from a little more liquid seaweed from time to time, chickpeas do not require much in the way of ongoing care. However, be careful not to overwater as mould can be problematic for their development.

Pests & diseases

Chickpeas are known to suffer diseases such as blight, and insects including aphids. Be sure to treat accordingly.

Harvest

Depending on location, chickpeas can vary in terms of growing time. However, after a few months or so, they should be ready, providing the pods have begun to dry out, or become plump. Pods can also be picked while still green and eaten straight from the bush.

Pick pods individually, or the entire plant all at once, shaking to harvest. If the chickpeas are not dry when picked, they can be left out in the sun or placed in the oven on a low heat.

Because both the pods and foliage of these plants contain oxalic acid, those with sensitive skin may prefer to wear gloves when handling.

Uses

To prepare for cooking, cover with water and leave to soak overnight. Drain the following day, discarding any discoloured chickpeas.

Although hummus is perhaps the most well-known use for chickpeas, they can actually be used in a wide variety of recipes – from curries, rice and couscous dishes, to soups and stews – adding body and flavour wherever they’re found.

So, what’s Garden-NZ’s pick of the dishy chicks? Well, we’re deeply dippy about this recipe for Sun Dried Tomato Hummus