Chickpeas (aka Garbonzo beans) are a useful source of protein, zinc and folate, as well as low in fat (most of which is polyunsaturated, although the smaller variety known as desi chana in India boasts a higher fiber content than lighter types. In fact, “100 grams of mature boiled chickpeas contains 164 calories, 2.6 grams of fat (of which only 0.27 grams is saturated), 7.6 grams of dietary fiber and 8.9 grams of protein. Chickpeas also provide dietary phosphorus (168 mg/100 g), which is higher that the amount found in a 100-gram serving of whole milk. Recent studies have also shown that they can assist in lowering of cholesterol in the bloodstream.
What you may not know is that chickpeas are also one of the earliest cultivated legumes: 7,500-year-old remains have been found in the Middle East, including at ancient digs in the aceramic levels of Jericho, along with Cayönü in Turkey and in Neolithic pottery at Hacilar, Turkey. They were also found in the late Neolithic (about 3500 BCE) at Thessaly, Kastanas, Lerna and Dimini, while still other evidence of their consumation have been uncovered in southern France Mesolithic layers in a cave at L'Abeurador, Aude have yielded wild chickpeas carbon dated to 6790 BCE.
By the Bronze Age, they were eaten as a staple, a dessert, as well as raw when young by the Greeks, while thhe Romans knew several varieties such as venus, ram, and punic chickpeas, which they cooked down into a broth and roasted as a snack.
Today, they are still enjoyed throughout the world where they are cooked and eaten cold in salads, cooked in stews, ground into a flour called gram flour (also known as chickpea flour and besan and used frequently in Indian cuisine), ground and shaped in balls and fried as falafel in Israel, stirred into a batter and baked to make farinata., and used in a variety of hot dishes in both Spain and Portugal, etc. Some varieties of chickpeas are even popped and eaten like popcorn, as well as roasted snacks such as those produced by Biena Foods of Cambridge, MA, which provides a healthy alternative to other crunchy munchies such as potato chips, etc.
In fact, Biena Foods uses all-natural spices and American-grown chickpeas to create distinct flavors such as Cinnamon Maple, Honey Roasted, Barbecue Roasted and Sea Salt. The snacks are gluten-free, vegan-friendly and Kosher Certified. Packages of these delightful treats can be found in select stores throughout New England, including Whole Foods in Northern Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.