Fresh from the Pod: Green Garbanzos

raw garbanzosThis find from a Salem, Oregon, supermarket may be nothing new to the Californians and Southwesterners among my readers, but it got me excited: fresh garbanzos, fully grown but still green and in the pod. I shelled them like regular peas—each pod cradled just one or two garbanzos—and boiled them for seven minutes before tossing them into a salad. Cooked, they had a flavor that was pea-like, though less sweet, and a firm texture with none of the mealiness of dried garbanzos. My dinner guests startled at the cooked chickpeas’ bright yellow-green color.

cooked garbanzosAn ancient food of the Mediterranean region, southern Asia, and North Africa, garbanzos need a long, rather cool growing season in well-drained soil. So where had these pods come from, in early April? I guessed southern California, and a little sleuthing around the Web reinforced my suspicion.  A company called Califresh was established near Fresno in 2002 specifically to produce green garbanzos, after the founders saw Mexican immigrants selling uprooted plants, their green pods dangling, along the roadsides of southern California. Green garbanzos had long been a popular snack in Mexico, and Mexican immigrant communities were a ready market. Soon Califresh had expanded production to several Californian and Mexican growing areas so the company could supply the fresh market year round. And the market was wherever a lot of Mexicans were settling—as they have been, in recent years, in and around Salem, Oregon.

I’ve never grown garbanzos, for either fresh or dried use. I’d like to do it just for the treat of my own in-pod green garbanzos. And in growing my own I could try red, black, and brown chickpeas, from among any of the dozen or more varieties listed by Seed Savers Exchange. Could I really manage to grow them, though, with my heavy soil and short growing season?

Garbanzos can indeed be grown in cooler places. Thanks in part to the current craze for hummus, they are now a major commercial crop in eastern Washington, western Idaho, and Montana, and farmers also grow them in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Oregon. In fact, for several years now a farm family in my county has been growing, drying, and shelling garbanzos for local sale.

Garbanzos are usually planted in early spring, because the plants need at least three months to produced filled pods and longer for the pods to dry. Our wet soils of spring and cold rains of autumn will be problematic for me. But producing green garbanzos should be much easier than producing dry ones. And if necessary I can follow the example of other dogged gardeners, by starting the seeds indoors–in biodegradable pots, because garbanzos dislike having their roots disturbed.

If you’ve grown garbanzos or found good ways to prepare the shelled green chickpeas, I’d love to hear about your experience.

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About Linda Ziedrich

I grow, cook, preserve, and write about food in Oregon's Willamette Valley.
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16 Responses to Fresh from the Pod: Green Garbanzos

  1. Sara says:

    I’m in Wisconsin and I planted garbanzos (just from the organic bulk bin at our co-op!) last year. They were somewhat successful. I grew a patch inside my small hoop house because I had read they don’t like to be wet at the pod-setting stage, and they seemed to be happy even in high heat. It was an experiment worth repeating if you have the space, my biggest issue was chipmunks who raided the patch right before the beans were full size–I was so sad to find pods strewn all over the place! I might try again with some kind of fence or cage over the patch. The fun part at harvest was that you could squeeze the (dry) pod and the little beans would shoot out. The plants themselves are quite attractive, more fernlike than bean, so they could add some nice texture to an edible landscape too. I ordered black garbanzo seeds from fedco this year and will try again!

  2. Many thanks for your report, Sara. I wonder whether the chipmunks were eating the garbanzos or shooting them at one another?

  3. Mary Ann says:

    I grew black kabouli chickpeas two years ago. I got the seed from Baker Creek. I heard that they sold seed in the Silverton feed store, but I haven’t checked that out. I had no trouble growing them. I was just a little disappointed in how few beans I got per plant. I never thought of trying to eat them green. I had enough time to let them dry on the plant in Salem.

    • Like Sara’s hoop house, your raised beds surely help in extending the growing season. Do you remember when you planted the chickpeas, Mary Ann?

      • Mary Ann says:

        I checked my records- 5/30,which is later than I probably should have. That was a wet, cold spring, wasn’t it? I dared plant it because I had read that kabuli chickpeas came from Kabul and I was thinking that area had cold winters so maybe… But that’s probably incorrect. They’re black and a little smaller than purchased chickpeas, but tasted just the same.

  4. cookcanread says:

    Bought some in Seattle yesterday– very excited!

  5. Yes, you’re right, Mary Ann: It was a wet, cold spring. I’m glad to know that kabuli chickpeas can grow to maturity in the Willamette Valley. Thanks!

  6. Mick Duggan says:

    I grew the black garbanzo two years ago in Seattle’s Beacon Hill area. I thought I wasn’t getting any thing until I noticed on the ground quite a few empty pods. Each pod had small hole. I think it was either birds or a rat. I started to pick them while in their green stage to beat them at it.
    What few Garbanzo s I did get were quite tasty.
    I got the seeds from Uprising Seeds near Bellingham WA.
    Good Growing
    Mick

  7. In southern California we plant them in the fall. They are a vetch (ferny leaves) and don’t need as much heat as new world beans. I’ve planted them for cover crops.

  8. I’ve never seen nor eaten fresh garbanzos, even in the Middle East they always come in dried form. Very interesting, thanks for the story!

  9. Read this today, another person inspired and inspiring on young chickpeas http://circusgardener.com/2013/08/02/green-chickpea-hummus/

  10. baltimoregon says:

    Which Salem supermarket? Yum!

  11. Hi, Laura! The store was Winco on South Commercial.

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