Monday, May 2, 2016


Ah, chickpeas, how do I love them? Let me count the ways. I love chickpeas as appetizers; as a snack; as a dip; in a salad or as a main dish.

                                                          Chick pea and its pod called 'çakıldak' or 'kapçık' in Turkish

Chickpeas as a snack are called leblebi in Turkish. Record of the origins of leblebi are scarce, though it is thought to date back to around 1370-90 CE in Turkey. Leblebi is roasted chick peas. There are two different kinds of leblebi: Dehulled leblebi is called 'sarı leblebi' (yellow leblebi) or rarerly, 'Girit leblebi' (Girit-the Island of Crete).

Non-dehulled leblebi is 'beyaz leblebi' (white leblebi) or 'nohut' (the word for chickpea in Turkish).

The first geographically registered (in 2002) leblebi is the Çorum leblebi from the town of Çorum. There are 2 other registered leblebi: Tavşanlı (Kütahya) leblebi (in 2003) and Serinhisar (Denizli) leblebi (in 2009).

Centers that have played a role in the production or are currently producing the most leblebi, starting from south east Turkey and going counter-clock-wise, are Mardin, Kayseri, Kirşehir, Denizli, Çorum, Amasya, Tokat and Erzincan. In Çorum mostly yellow leblebi is produced. White leblebi is produced in the Aegean Region of Turkey.

Evliya Çelebi, (25 March 1611-after 1682) an Ottoman Turk who travelled through the territory of the Ottoman Empire and neighboring lands over a period of forty years, recording his commentary in a travelogue called Seyâhatnâme tells that in the 17th century Istanbul, leblebi was produced and consumed in abundance. There were 100 shops and 400 workers making leblebi. The population of the city at the time is estimated to be 700,000-800,000.

The word leblebi may have come from the Arabic word 'leblab', a kind of ivy with edible seeds, thus 'leblebi' is 'made from leblab' or from the Persian 'leb', meaning lip, and suffix-i, 'of lips', thus leblebi is ‘for lips’ perhaps.

Cicer is a genus of the legume family Fabaceae (formerly Leguminosae), subfamily Faboideae and the only genus found in tribe Cicereae. Its best-known and only domesticated member is Cicer arietinum, the chickpea. The word legume means a plant in the family Fabaceae, or the fruit or seed of such a plant. This variety of plants (lately called pulses) have pods that contain seeds. Beans and peas are examples of legumes. Legumes are used for food, feed or as soil-improving crops due to their root characteristic.

The delicate chickpea flowers are produced singly or in pairs and can be white, pink, purple or blue in color.

The chickpea is thought to have originated in Turkey, Syria and Iran ( It is one of the earliest cultivated legumes: 7,500-year-old remains have been found in the Middle East. Domesticated chickpeas have been found in the aceramic levels (without pottery) of Jericho and in Çayönü in Turkey. They were in Neolithic pottery at Hacılar, Turkey. They were found in the late Neolithic period (about 3500 BCE) at sites in Greece. In southern France, Mesolithic layers in a cave at L'Abeurador, Aude (south-central France) have yielded wild chickpeas carbon dated around 6790 BCE.

Chickpeas are mentioned in Charlemagne's Capitulare de villis (about 800 CE). Albertus Magnus, a 13th century Bishop mentions red, white, and black varieties in his writings.

Wikipedia lists the following kinds of chickpeas:
'Desi' which has small, darker seeds and a rough coat is grown mostly in India and other parts of the Indian subcontinent, as well as in Ethiopia, Mexico, and Iran. 'Desi' is probably the earliest variety because it closely resembles seeds found on archaeological sites and the wild ancestor of domesticated chickpeas, which only grows in southeast Turkey, where it is believed to have originated.

'Bambai' chickpeas are also dark but slightly larger than 'Desi'.

'Kabuli' is lighter colored, larger, and with a smoother coat, and is mainly grown in the Mediterranean, Southern Europe, Northern Africa, South America, and the Indian subcontinent.

An uncommon black chickpea, ceci neri, is grown only in Apulia, in southeastern Italy. It is larger and darker than the 'Desi' variety.

Green chickpeas are common in India.

Chickpeas used for leblebi are selected for shape, size, color, and harvesting time, and vary by cultivar. Generally, large-seeded (8 –9 mm in diameter), lighter-colored, round, and smooth surfaced kabuli chickpeas are preferred; a thick seed coat and hull, easy to remove from the kernel is requisite. Harvesting time determines the tempering process and quality of leblebi; chickpeas are cleaned and classified by size, with undeveloped, damaged, shrunken, and broken chickpeas discarded (

Leblebi is produced through a long and laborious process. To begin with, the chickpeas are heated (tempered) in special ovens  3 times on 3 separate days. After the third heating they are spread out to rest. This process takes approximately 15-20 days.

The night before leblebi is going to be made the chickpeas are dampened. The following day they are warmed in the special pan and lightly pressed with what is called a ‘mafrak’ (also known as tokmak or varak, a cylindrical piece of preferably poplar wood that is at least 30 cm in diameter) to get the skins off. During this process some chickpeas brake into two halves. These are separated by the use of a sieve from the whole chickpeas.

‘The broken leblebi’ are turned into leblebi flour. If the rest of the leblebi is roasted one more time little black specks appear on the chickpeas. They are then called ‘çifte kavrulmuş’-‘double roasted’ which is an expression often used within the Turkish food industry. Tea biscuits or Turkish delight-lokum can be double roasted, for instance.

Chickpea flour is gluten free and therefore can be consumed by people who have Celiac disease.

There is also a wide variety of types of leblebi that I don’t care for. It is said that there can be up to forty kinds of leblebi such as chocolate covered, sugar coated, peppered, candied, with mastic, with clove, etc. Leblebi has been introduced to North Africa, the Middle East, Europe and even North America.

The Armenian-Turkish composer Dikran Tchouhadjian (1837-1898) composed an operetta titled Leblebidji Hor-Hor Agha (The Chickpea Vendor Hor-Hor Agha) in 1875.

Chickpea and beef stew goes well with rice.

For a tasty hummus, all you need is chickpeas, tahini (paste made from toasted, hulled, ground sesame seeds), garlic, sea salt, extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice.

Chickpeas are a good source of fiber, protein and iron making them desirable in a vegetarian diet. They have a mild, subtle taste that pairs well with many other ingredients.

Wikipedia informs us that the name chickpea traces back through the French chiche to cicer, Latin for 'chickpea'. The Oxford English Dictionary lists a 1548 citation that reads, "Cicer may be named in English Cich, or ciche pease, after the Frenche tongue." The dictionary cites chick-pea in the mid-18th century; the original word in English taken directly from French was chich, found in print in English in 1388.

The word garbanzo came first to American English as garvance in the 17th century, from an alteration of the Old Spanish word arvanço, being gradually anglicized to calavance. The current form garbanzo comes directly from modern Spanish. It’s been suggested that the origin of the word may derive from a Greek word or possibly, from two Basque (a non-Indo-European tongue) words forming a compound meaning dry seed.

I must say that chickpea coffee would not make the list of how I love chickpeas. In the early fifties I remember the scarcity of certain items. The lack of one of these, coloring pencils, concerned me in particular until the stationary my aunt frequented to get me story books received several boxes of them. About the lack of good coffee in those days I was informed later. Ground chickpeas would be added to the little amount of coffee there was and boiled. How could this satisfy any true coffee drinker? I guess at a time when there was no alternative they had do make do.

In 1793, ground-roast chickpeas were noted by a German writer as a substitute for coffee. In the First World War, they were grown for this use in some areas of Germany.

People still seem to brew chickpeas instead of coffee around the world. All that needs to be done is roast some chickpeas in a 300 degree oven until they're the color of roasted coffee beans, then grind the nuggets to the consistency of percolator-type coffee. I wouldn’t know.

                                                                                           Dry chickpeas


  1. Hi Beste - what a lot of history here .. I love hummous and eat quite a lot of it... as too I use chickpeas instead of rice, or potatoes ... a different texture to various dishes. Delicious .. cheers Hilary

  2. Hello Hilary, You know, I don't actually make my own hummus. I've discovered a brand that is made with natural ingredients. I always keep some in the fridge and I too eat quite a lot of it. Salut, Beste

  3. I've heard of chicory in coffee or in place of coffee, but never chick peas! Wonder what they taste like?
    I love chick peas too! I always forget that the chick peas that can be served with rice (yum) are the same as those made into leblebi. Is the white leblebi roasted fewer times than the yellow and black spotted leblebi? I really enjoy the white one. Wish I had a bowlful right now...

  4. I used to prefer the yellow and black spotted roast. I also eat the white leblebi these days.