Earlier this year, as an experiment, I sprouted some dried chickpeas and planted them on my allotment plot, the Circus Garden.
Traditionally, chickpeas are used in Middle Eastern, Indian and North African cooking. Around three quarters of the world’s supply of this highly nutritious, protein-rich food is grown in India and Pakistan, so I didn’t harbour great hopes for my own crop here on the outskirts of Worcester in the UK. However, no doubt in part due to the fine summer weather, I have ended up with a bumper harvest from the twenty four plants I raised.
I have to say that fresh chickpeas have proved quite a revelation too – they are much more tasty than cooked dried chickpeas, having a sweet, pleasant taste quite similar to a conventional pea.
There is a lot of hype these days about so-called “superfoods”, but if any one vegetable truly merited that description, it must surely be the chickpea. Twenty five per cent of this vegetable consists of high quality protein. It also has a much higher iron and zinc content than wheat. It is low in fat, high in amino acids and a good source of phosphorus and magnesium. In clinical trials it has been shown to help lower cholesterol levels in the blood.
Add to this its ability (like all legumes) to fix atmospheric nitrogen, turning some of it into protein and enriching the soil with the rest (meaning the chickpea does not need the use of artificial fertiliser), and you can see why it is so special.
For many of the world’s poor the chickpea forms a key component of a healthy, balanced diet, providing high quality protein at a tiny fraction of the cost of producing the equivalent amount of meat protein.
Today’s recipe is easy and straightforward, apart from the problem of sourcing the principal ingredient – unless you grow your own, you may have difficulty finding fresh chickpeas. And if you don’t grow them why not give them a try? They don’t take up much space and are so easy to grow and so rewarding. I intend to grow them every year from now on.
Using fresh chickpeas completely transforms this traditional dish. I love the vibrant colour as well as the wonderful bright, fresh taste of this green chickpea hummus.
green chickpea hummus
200g freshly podded chickpeas
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp salt
50 ml olive oil
1. Bring a steamer of water to the boil. Steam the chickpeas for 2 minutes then refresh by plunging into ice cold water.
2. Put the chickpeas with the other hummus ingredients into a blender and blend until fairly smooth but retaining some texture.
3. Serve, as a light lunch or starter, with pita bread or with batons of fresh vegetables, such as peppers, carrots and celery. Alternatively, serve in the form of crostini using griddled garlicky slices of ciabbata.