Garbanzo Salad

The beans also known as chickpeas, or ceci, or any of a dozen other names.

Canned garbanzo beans with the inner shell intact by Joel Kramer on Flickr

Still, what do you expect from a legume that has been consumed by humans throughout our recorded history? The wild version originated in Syria and Turkey and was domesticated around 7000 BC, give or take half a millennium.

(If you ever travel through time, please visit Neolithic Mesopotamia and ask them to take better notes about their garbanzo bean planting.)

Generally speaking people interact with chickpeas in one of two states of preservation: either canned or dried. That’s partially because they’re a pain to grow and partially because there’s some question about their safety if eaten raw.

While it’s possible to grow chickpeas if you happen to live in a place where the climate is steady and mild (or have your own greenhouse), they’re finicky little beasts. They have delicate root systems and don’t take well to being transplanted, they don’t like temperatures below 65F. and they don’t really like temperatures higher than about 80F.

Fresh garbanzo beans in their outer pod from Alemany Farmer’s Market, San Francisco, on May 29, 2010. By manda_wong, on Flickr

That range is narrower than you think, when you factor in that they take about 100 days to mature. Oh, and while that bright green outer pod is certainly attractive, it doesn’t offer moisture protection, so if it rains and stays wet, the beans will sprout or rot.

If all of this goes your way, you’ll be treated to a yield that typically hovers around 20 beans per plant, although ideal conditions and good growing practice can push that up to 40 or more. Still, anything more than an annual falafel meal for one is going to require serious garden space to accomplish.

The toxins are another story entirely. Let’s not get into the mechanics of this except to say that it’s possible eating raw chickpeas can cause you gastrointestinal distress. (Sprouting them effectively neutralizes the toxins, so that’s another option–but you shouldn’t be sprouting things unless you really, really know what you’re doing, because sprouts grow in the same conditions bacteria love.)

That said, the Romans ate raw green chickpeas, and I’ve eaten raw green chickpeas, and we lived to tell the tale. I think it’s a bit like Peking duck; if I told you you ought to hang a raw bird in front of a fan overnight at room temperature, you’d think I was trying to kill you, but the Chinese have done it for six hundred years quite successfully.

That said, a fresh chickpea–even a fresh one that’s been cooked slightly–tastes halfway between a garden pea and a peanut. It has a much sweeter flavor than the canned or dried variety and pairs even better with acidity and salt. So if you do find the fresh ones, you should jump on the opportunity.

Americans are generally waking up to the fact that, like the fava bean and the soybean, garbanzo beans have inner skins. Now, the inner skin of the lava bean is extremely bitter and possibly toxic and must be removed; the skin on soybeans doesn’t taste like much of anything but isn’t harmful, doesn’t interfere with the texture much, and is consumed all the time with edamame.

The skin on garbanzo beans doesn’t taste like anything, either, but it’s fairly firm and can absolutely destroy the texture of what you’re making (as well as prove annoying to your digestive tract), so it’s wise to remove it, whether you’ve got fresh beans, canned, or dried.

From the box of F.J. from Sun City, Arizona. Some cards suggest a family history in Missouri and Kansas.

Garbanzo Salad

3 packages (10 oz. each) frozen cut green beans
1 chopped onion
1 can (1 lb.) garbanzo beans
2 cans (8 oz. eacb) artichoke hearts (marinated)
1 pkg. garlic dressing mix, prepared according to directions
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook green beans until barely tender. Drain and cool. Saute onion in a little butter. Combine with beans, garbanzos, and artichokes. Marinate in garlic dressing for 24 hours. Drain before serving.

The favorite recipe [this is printed on the card as part of the design to designate origin, not a personal evaluation from Lola herself] of Lola Kafka.

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