Last month, in the midst of my suspicions that many of the farmers selling produce at our local farmers market were not actually growing a lot of the produce they were selling, I had a pleasant discovery. Gonzaga Farms from Lindsay, new to the market, brought a handful of items that we had not seen available at the market since we started shopping there. Among the various pepper varieties (some hot and some not) were massive bushels full of pods, looking very similar to snap peas.
Katrina immediately pointed to the sign above the plants. “Chickpeas” it said. We looked at each other in silence for a second before she asked “Should we?” I gave her my customary look for “Fuggetaboutit” and away we went with two large bushels for $5. I gave the purveyor my card and asked him some customary questions about his farm – as I’ve been doing to every new farmer I meet there. But unlike most farmers I’ve asked at that market,, this guy seemed real, believable, truthful in the greatest sense of the word. I trusted that he grew these. And a quick Google search when I returned home proved the farm’s legitimacy.
Also known as a garbanzo bean or indian pea (among other names), the chickpea is very high in protein, and is said to have roots dating back 7500 years. Having only eaten garbanzo beans dried or rehydrated all these years, we were excited to finally find them fresh. We were excited to open one of the pods and taste what was inside.
Wait a minute. They’re green? Who knew? So we tasted a couple, and they were pretty fantastic. It tasted like a freshly picked green pea – just firmer, nuttier, and pastier. But it’s not what I was expecting. I’d only ever had white garbanzo beans. Were these too young to eat? Why aren’t these white?
An education was in order, and an education is just what I received when I returned home. As it turns out, chickpeas come in various varieties. There are white chickpeas, which we’ve been used to eating, and green chickpeas. The flavor of these green chickpeas were a lot closer to a fresh sugar snap pea than that of the white garbanzo we’ve been making hummus with for years.
However, the question still remained. Why do they call them chickpeas?
Now it makes complete sense.
A text to my friend Chef Nathan Lyon, host of “Growing a Greener World” and “A Lyon in the Kitchen” was in order. Of all of the people I know, no one can bring out the best from fresh produce. I had no idea how to prepare these, and I certainly didn’t want to do the wrong thing and ruin them, especially considering the amount of work it took to shuck these things from their pods.
The texts went something like this:
[me] Nathan, I just scored some fresh chickpeas from the Farmers Market. Not sure what to do with them. Green hummus? Should I dry them first?
[me] Thanks. Appreciate your help.
[nathan] Fresh in a salad, or lightly cooked. Treat them like fresh peas.
So that’s exactly what I did. Lightly poached in a tablespoon of unsalted butter over low heat, these green protein-rich nuggets made good company for grilled pork chops and roasted beets one night, and alongside roast chicken and potatoes another.
While restoring my faith in our Farmers Market, it helped write another chapter in my life as a foodie. I try to make every day a learning experience when it comes to food. I make it a personal goal to try to taste new things, learn more about food each day. Experiences like these are enriching, and takes me further away from the processed, artificial food items being manufactured and eaten by Americans more and more each day.
Why are destinations like Applebee’s, Chili’s, and The Olive Garden more popular than fresh food stands?
It makes me feel sorry for those people not able or willing to experience food like the fresh chickpea. This is a food item that has been around 7500 years, and not until now am I getting around to experiencing it fresh from the plant.
It makes me wonder what’s around the corner, what’s next. It’s that anticipation that gives me hope, keeps bringing me back, and confirms that I’m doing the right thing by devoting my life to food.