Ode to the Garbanzo Bean
The garbanzo bean has several different names. It is also known as the chickpea, bengal gram, the Indian pea, and the list goes on. Whatever you call this little beauty, it should be an essential part of your garden. The garbanzo bean is both good for you and extremely easy to grow and harvest. It has been found in everything from your favorite local grocer's canned food aisle to the tofu department at the ritziest stores in town.
It could be that the garbanzo bean is one of the most useful vegetables. Garbanzo can be used in many different manners. It can be made into an alcoholic beverage by fermentation, it can be eaten cooked and chilled in salads and pastas as well as eaten hot in stews and soups. During World War Two, garbanzo beans were ground into a substitute for coffee in Germany. Garbanzo beans (also called chickpeas) can be ground into a kind of flower called gram flour which is found in a lot of Indian cuisines.
The garbanzo bean has a nut-like flavor that is pleasing to the palate. It is also very nutritious, being a great source for the recommended daily allowances for many vitamins and nutrients. The beans come in three colors: black, brown, and the most common beige.
Garbanzo beans are extremely easy to both start and grow. There are many different manners of starting garbanzo seeds and most work equally well. How you choose to start them is a matter of personal preference. I tend to go the route of the lazy gardener.
Seeds grow best in dry sandy soil that crumbles through your fingertips and is well fertilized. Full sun is preferred but partial shade will also suffice if necessary. After the danger of the frost has passed you can begin the process of sowing your seeds. Dry sandy type soils responds well to side dressing of plants with a good fertilizer; we use 5-10-10 but any similar one will do nicely. Most seeds are pre-treated to prevent diseases; however, if you prefer to use untreated seeds then it is prudent to wait until the soil has completely warmed to avoid the added risk of disease as well as rot. Plant seeds approximately one and a half inches deep three to five inches apart, with rows approximately two to three feet apart. For a continual harvest, plant new seeds every two and a half weeks to the halfway point of the growing season. The pods are picked when the beans are in the green, ripe stage or allowed to ripen for dry beans.
Garbanzo beans store well when dried. They can be kept in a cool dry place for twelve months; however some claim that the garbanzo bean can be kept for as long as twenty-four months if kept in sealed containers. Cooked garbanzo beans can be kept in the refrigerator for two to three days in a sealed dish.
One of my absolute favorite ways to serve garbanzo beans is in garbanzo bean soup. It is simple to prepare and easy to make ahead. You can prepare it in larger batches and store it in serving size bowls in the freezer for lunches or easy dinners.
1 pound dried garbanzo beans
8 cups water
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1/2 clove garlic, diced
4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3/4 teaspoon oregano
2 bay leaves
1 (6 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (6 ounce) can stewed tomatoes
6 medium or 4 large size potatoes, peeled
Possible additions: one bell pepper and 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Preparation and cooking instructions:
Rinse garbanzo beans until water runs clear; check them thoroughly for stones and or debris. Allow garbanzo beans to soak overnight. In a skillet sauté bell pepper, onion, and garlic in a sprits of olive oil until tender. Add contents of skillet to remainder of ingredients to stock or crock pot, add spices as desired (those with a more sensitive palate may want to cut back on or leave out the white pepper all together). Allow to simmer for two to three hours on stove in stock pot or on medium in crock pot for approximately four hours.
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