If you blink at the wrong time during early spring, you may miss the fleeting presence of fresh garbanzo beans, still in their small, fuzzy green pods. Also known as chickpeas, ceci beans, Indian peas, Bengal gram and Kabuli chana, we are much more familiar in the US with garbanzos in canned or dried forms before they become the key ingredient in hummus, falafel, Indian vegetarian curries and Italian salads.
I first spied fresh garbanzos as recently as last year. Popping the beans out of their pods and savoring their green, sweet, and slightly nutty essence transported me far from the hectic, crowded city to a spacious country porch, a rocking chair and visions of me shelling garbanzos…I was well on my way to eating the entire bag by the time I arrived home! Similar to green pea pods but smaller, their shells are thinner, hairy and paper-like. One or two peas occupy each pod. This picture shows how they are sold at markets in Mexico - fresh pods still attached to their branches. The leaves are used to make sun tea and the branches are fed to the burros! In the US you will pay a little more since you’re only buying the pods. If you a lucky enough to come across some at your market or grocery store, grab some!
This is how I found them
Sadly, most of the crops in California support the dried garbanzo market. Hopefully, with more families embracing a farm-to-table approach to their diets, these wonderful legumes will become a seasonal staple . I recently read about a California farmer and his support of his Hispanic foreman’s “agricultural fantasy” - selling fresh garbanzos to “Gringos”! When they introduced them at a market in San Francisco, Hispanic women delighted in the fresh crop, while the “Gringas” were not so easily charmed, especially put off by the chilling thought of, heaven forbid, shelling the beans themselves!!! (Link to the entire article). For people as particular as they are, sautéing them in their shells as I did below saves shelling time and they can be eaten like edamame – each person shelling his or her own.
In Mexico and from the Eastern Mediterranean to India, fresh garbanzos are eaten raw as well as cooked, and in many areas they are considered the poor man’s protein. Aside from being high in protein, these nutritious little gems are also high in fiber and potassium . My recent batch made it home with only a few beans eaten! I decided to process them minimally so that they retain some of the raw “green” nutty taste that I hunger for. A quick sauté did the trick for me, but you could also toss the pods in a little bit of olive oil and roast them at 425F for 25 – 30 minutes for a creamier texture.
Heat a little bit of olive oil in a pan. Carefully add the fresh garbanzo beans. They will quickly begin jumping like popping corn!
When the shells are charred on both sides, sprinkle with chile powder, cayenne pepper and kosher salt, to taste. Finish with a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
This simple snack is my entry to Magic Bullet To Go Giveaway, for which you can find details @ Fun and Food Cafe. You could win a Magic Bullet Food processor! It’s easy!