Fresh Chickpeas

Fresh Garbanzo Beans

Fresh chickpeas in the the pod and peeled

I was at the Asian Grocery Center in Bellevue, hunting down some Dragon Well tea when I spotted these in the produce section.  I’m familiar with chickpeas, but I’d never seen fresh ones before.  I knew my wife would be tickled by them, so I grabbed  a pound.

They come in fuzzy little pods (pericarps, if you want to get technical) which are not edible.  Opening the pods reveals the crinkly, light-green bean inside.  As you can see in the picture above, they come in a range of sizes.  It made me think about how much the canned and dried chickpeas I buy must be sorted for size, as they all seem almost identical.

They are edible raw, which I tried and am not sure I would recommend.   They taste like chickpeas, but with a bit of sweetness and a strong vegetal flavor.  I wasn’t sure exactly what to do with them.  I already had some lacinato kale simmering on the stove, so  I waited until the kale was almost done cooking, tossed them in, and re-covered the pan to let them steam for a few minutes, until their green color had brightened a bit.  They were a nice accompaniment to the kale, and the only part of the dish that my daughters would eat without encouragement.

The fresh chickpeas are a nice change of pace.  Peeling enough to make dinner for four or so was a time consuming task. Now that I think about it, I should have delegated this responsibility to one of the kids.   It’s the perfect task for young helpers in the kitchen.

Perhaps with the with the exception of soybeans and favas, I don’t think I’ve seen any beans (where the bean itself is the edible portion), fresh before.  Perhaps that’s because the consumption of some raw legumes can cause lathyrism. Good news: According to Wikipedia, fresh chickpeas do not cause this disease, and so can be eaten raw. I can’t remember where in my nutrition education I learned about the protease inhibitors in some legumes, but hopefully their isn’t much in fresh chickpeas.  The presence of protease inhibitors would reduce the  digestive tract’s ability to breakdown protein, preventing the gut from absorbing this nutrient.  These enzymes are destroyed during the cooking process, which is why we can safely consume cooked beans.


All Canned Beans are Not the Same

I realized after completing my post for the hummus recipe that I had not provided one important piece of information.  I preferentially use organic brands of canned beans.  I use them not because I think organic foods are better (I think that they are not as much better for you as they are touted to be, but still have value) and not because most of them use BPA free linings (I’m not super-concerned about BPAs, but think less chemicals in my food is generally a good thing), but because they are typically significantly lower in sodium:

Here are the nutritional values, recalculated with the values for a conventional brand of beans (see the original values here):

15  Servings
Serving Size: 2 tablespoons
Calories 53   Calories from Fat 30
% Daily Value
Total Fat 3.4 g 5%
   Saturated Fat 0.4 g 2%
   Trans Fat 0 g
   Cholesterol 0 g 0%
Sodium 102.3 g 4%
Total Carbohydate 5.1 g 0%
   Dietary Fiber 1.4 g 5%
   Sugar 0 g
Protein 1.8 g 4%

Sodium jumps from 6.6 grams to 1o2.3 gram.  In the grand scheme of things, it initially seems like 4% of your sodium intake for the day isn’t a huge amount.  Keep in mind, the foods that hummus is usually served with: bread, cheese, pita chips and olives.  All of these foods tend to be rather salty.

I like to choose how much salt I add to my food, not leave it up to food manufacturers. Draining and rinsing canned beans can significantly reduce the amount of sodium.  There are also quite a few low sodium options on the market as well, which are a less expensive than the organic brands.

Of course, if you want total control, you could always cook the beans from scratch.