Fresh Chickpeas…Who Knew?!?

About a year ago, I started frequenting a discount grocery store in our area that tailors its inventory to its Latin American and Afro-Carribean clientele. This store carries a really interesting selection of produce and seasonings for international cooking, and it is always an education for me to browse there.

The most remarkable of my discoveries at this store has been the fresh chickpeas.  I think it is very safe to say that I’ve never met a chickpea I don’t like.  If you’d asked me, I would have told you that my chickpea world seemed pretty complete.  My chickpeas either came dried, and I cooked them myself, or canned, in which case they had been previously dried and cooked. Fresh chickpeas are so different from dried chickpeas that I have a hard time considering them the same product.  This contrast is probably analogous to the contrast between a green pea fresh from its pod and a dried split pea.

Here are the details.  Fresh chickpeas are a spring crop in most climates, but they are currently grown year-round in California and distributed nationally.  I haver never thought of chickpeas as central to Latin American cuisine, but from the research I’ve done on fresh chickpea distribution networks (you see, I really, really like these!), they seem to be sold to stores that have a significant Latin American customer base.  If you know why, please write and enlighten me on this point!

The chickpeas that I buy come still in their pods, and the shucking of these peas is a bit tedious.  I am fortunate in that my little sous chef is also terribly fond of chickpeas and is happy to help shuck.  Most recently, she even got her Dad to assist, and I’m pretty sure he never expected to be shucking fresh chickpeas!  Here are photos of the chickpeas, before and after shucking.

 Because they are fresh, they cook quite quickly.  This time, I sauteed some garlic and leeks in olive oil, added the chickpeas and about 1/4 cup of water.  I cooked them over medium heat until the water evaporated, and then added some lemon-dijon-tarragon compound butter and boiled baby redskin potatoes, to make a sort of hash.  Delicious!