I love chickpeas and I have a polytunnel. So this year I thought I’d do something daring and grow them here in the Belgian Ardennes.
I bought some seeds and planted them in seed trays (April to May) to plant out after last frost. Much to my surprise they all germinated which left me with too many seedlings for the little bed I had in mind in the polytunnel, so boldly I decided to plant the leftover seedlings outside. Bit of a long shot right?
Chickpea plants are really quite lovely, with ragged little leaves and tiny white flowers which bees simply adore. They wriggle themselves inside the petals with great enthusiasm, pollinating the chickpea plants while they do it. Soon after, the little pods appear. Coated with tiny hairs and full of air, these pods have one or two chickpeas inside.
Preparing and preserving
The young green chickpeas are ready to harvest when the pods feel hard to the touch but are still bright green. Check out this recipe for chickpea edamame or mash them and add them to your homemade guacamole. However, if you are thinking of storing the chickpeas, then it might be better to leave them on the plants until the leaves start to turn yellow. Pull up the plants and hang them to dry in a cool airy place. Once dried, the rather fiddly business starts, breaking open the dried pods and removing the chickpeas. It took me two hours and bruised fingers but I did manage to get a decent amount of dried chickpeas as my reward.
Even though the seed package stated that in our temperate climate chickpeas will only grow under cover, I can happily say that the plants outside were also productive. Perhaps not as much as those inside, but I think if you have a sheltered spot you can easily grow them yourself. Chickpeas do not require a lot of water but they are pest-resilient and disease free. I have since learnt that you can even grow dried supermarket chickpeas!
So what are you waiting for? Add chickpeas to your list of things to grow next year!