Chickpea (Cicer arietinum) is one of the world's three most consumed pulses (the other two are Phaseolus vulgaris and Pisum sativum). Chickpea was domesticated in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East, together with other pulses as well as wheat and barley. It is believed to be derived from the the wild species C. reticulatum. Chickpea probably reached the Mediterranean region by 4000 B.C. and India by 2000 B.C. In the 16th century it was brought to the New World by the Spanish and Portuguese. Today, the biggest producer is India (where Chickpeas are consumed extensively), but several other countries in South Asia, the Middle East, the Mediterranean region, and elsewhere are also significant producers (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization FAOSTAT website, 2010 data). Chickpea breeders face a special challenge from the low genetic variation present in the domesticated gene pool (Abbo et al. 2011).
The Chickpea plant has finely divided leaves, giving it a feathery appearance. The pods are oblong (2 to 3 by 1 to 2 cm) and contain one or two beaked seeds which may be white, yellow, red, brown, or nearly black. They do well in a cool, dry climate and are grown in India as a winter crop. Relative to most other pulses, chickpeas are fairly low in protein (as low as 17%), but high in fat (5%). In India, chickpeas are used to make dhal. The seed flour may be used to make confections. In the Mediterranean region, chickpeas are used to make hummus.
(Vaughan and Geissler 1997; Abbo et al. 2009, 2011;
- Abbo, S., Y. Saranga, and Z. Peleg. 2009. Reconsidering Domestication Of Legumes Versus Cereals In The Ancient Near East. The Quarterly Review of Biology 84(1): 29-50.
- Abbo, S., Y.T. Mesghenna, and H. van Oss. 2011. Interspecific hybridization in wild Cicer spp. Plant Breeding 130: 150-155.
- Vaughan, J.G. and C.A. Geissler. 1997. The New Oxford Book of Food Plants (revised and updated edition). Oxford University Press, New York.