Most people have eaten chickpeas in falafel, hummus, or in salads from salad bars, but how many people have tasted the wonderful fresh green chickpea or choliya as it is called in Urdu? They are a delight and so satisfying to shell as the pods are rather like bubble wrap, so if you enjoy popping those bubbles, then you will adore shelling fresh green chickpeas. The pods are puffed up with air and give a delightful popping sound when squeezed, which is how you shell chickpeas. Here is Pakistan we buy them by the kilo which consists of stems and leaves, so you come home from the bazaar carrying a small bush. The leaves and roots are used in traditional medicine but they contain oxalic and malic acids (as do the pods) so are not generally eaten. The chickpea root is boiled and produces a milky substance, which is used as milk for babies and to stop diarrhoea. The leaves and root are also used to produce indigo dye which is used for cotton, silk and wool.
  The leaves are used in medicinal preparations to help bronchitis sufferers and the seeds (the little chickpeas) are used as tonics, stimulants and aphrodisiacs. They are also used in liver and spleen disorders. Eaten raw the little green chick peas quench thirst and stop burning sensations in the stomach and are used to get rid of internal parasites, although I think they are cooked to do this. The leaves are said to have abortifacient properties and are used to promote the menstrual flow, and for colds, coughs and pains.
  The leaves, roots and pods are also used to get rid of warts, to stop constipation, diarrhoea, sunstroke and cholera, so have a lot of traditional uses.
  The fresh chick peas are usually allowed to dry in the pod, giving us the dried chickpea we are accustomed to, the pale yellow ‘bean’ that looks like a hazelnut. Last year we were given some of these, along with the fresh ones (which are in the bazaar right now), and we left them to soak overnight in a metal pot. We were awakened during the night by a noise that sounded like popcorn spattering in a pan. On investigation we discovered it was the chickpeas popping as they expanded. We had to put them on the roof in a plastic pot (covered) so that we could get back to sleep.
Chickpeas were probably one of the first crops to be cultivated and we can trace their consumption back to more than 7,000 years ago. It is believed that they were being cultivated in Turkey well before that, but their origins are thought to be in the Middle East. From there they spread westward into the Mediterranean region (where they were cultivated by the ancient Greeks and Romans) and east into the Indian subcontinent and into Ethiopia. They are related to the garden pea and other legumes including clover, beans, lupin and peanuts and are in the Fabaceae family of plants. The Romans ground the dried chickpeas into flour and used them to make a kind of polenta (usually these days made with corn/maize flour in Italy). Roasted chick peas were combined with lupin seeds and sold on the streets in ancient Rome as snacks. Today Greeks and Pakistanis also eat them roasted with pumpkin seeds and other seeds as a healthy snack. Today they are still found on the streets and in packets in supermarkets.
  Culpeper called them “chick pease or cicers” in the 17th century and said that they were good to stop flatulence and for semen production as well as to bring on the menstrual flow. (Cicero, the Roman orator, is believed to have got his name because one of his ancestors had a cicer mark on his face, possibly a mole that looked like a chick pea. Cicer was the Latin word for this legume and arietum means little ram)
  Fresh green chickpeas or choliya contain vitamins C, E, K and B-complex vitamins, folate, and the minerals magnesium, zinc, calcium, iron and pantothenic acid; they are rich in molybdenum The dried ones that we make falafel with also contain beta-carotene which the body converts to vitamin A, and phosphorous, potassium selenium and sodium as well as those listed above in fresh ones. They also contain amino acids including arginine (see watermelon) and the flavonoids including quercetin, kaempferol and myrcetin in their outer skins (especially in the black-skinned variety). The interior of the bean contains phenolic acids which include ferulic, chlorogenic, caffeic and vanillic acids and anthocyanins which help to reduce the risk of heart disease. Chickpeas have a unique combination of substances which give them powerful antioxidant qualities and they protest the blood vessel walls and keep the blood healthy as well as being good for the digestive system.
  Chick peas are high in dietary fibre and so help reduce the risk of colon cancer, and studies have suggested that they help control blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels and insulin secretion. The fibre in chickpeas remains undigested until it gets to the lower intestine and the colon and so helps those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, (IBS) and spastic colons.
  There are two types of dried chick peas, the ‘desi’ variety which has a light brown to black outer skin, which is quite thick, and has potent antioxidant properties, and the ‘kabuli’ type (from Kabul, Afghanistan) which we most commonly find in supermarkets.
  The recipe below is for green chickpeas although you can find others on this site for dried chickpeas.

2 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cubed
150 gr shelled green chick peas, choliya
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 onion, chopped,
1 inch ginger root, peeled and sliced
4 garlic cloves
2 green chillies, chopped
pinch asafoetida (heng)
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp ground coriander seeds
1 tbsp oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Grind the onion, tomatoes, ginger, garlic and chillies to a smooth paste.
Heat the oil and throw in the cumin seeds, and fry until they release their aroma.
Add the paste, all the spices and salt and pepper stir well and fry until the oil begins to separate.
Now add the fresh chickpeas, the cubed potatoes and 2 cups of water. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 45 mins or until the potatoes and chick peas are tender.
If you need to, add a little more water to prevent the mixture burning and sticking to the pan.
Serve with plain rice or roti (chapattis) or naan.
This has Taste and is a Treat.


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