When you go to the market ask for chickpeas from Alentejo, they apparently look smaller and irregular compared to the ones from Mexico usually found in Algarve, but the taste….uuuuuu..delicious!!!
The relevance of the chickpeas in the Portuguese diet is so marked that it is consumed from north to south of the country, in dishes as different as soups, stews – with pork or beef, cooked – accompanying the cooked cod and the “meia desfeita” (popular cod dish) or as an ingredient for the filling of desserts – Peniche flounder, for example. Very curious is its use to make home-made appetizers (fried and salty), replacing more expensive nuts and dried fruit. Out of curiosity, the following popular saying is quoted: “The bean only needs two water sources: that of sowing and that of cooking”
For the best recipes from Algarve and Alentejo like the “Sopa de Grão com Acelgas” (chickpeas with Beet leaves) or Jantar de Grão with chickpeas and black pork, have a look at pages 250 to 253 of this interesting free e-book from the Portuguese Department of Agriculture and Fishing.
India is the biggest producer, followed by Australia, Pakistan and Mexico.
Chickpeas are rich in proteins, and are grown in many parts of the world for human consumption. The plant is one of the earliest cultivated legumes and evidence of chickpea remains, as old as 7,500 years, have been found in the Middle East. The Bengal gram is the oldest variety and is probably a descendant of the ancestral chickpea of Cicer reticulatum which originated in Turkey. The Bengal gram is mainly cultivated in the Indian subcontinent, Iran, Mexico, and Ethiopia. Another variety, the Garbanzo bean is grown in parts of Europe, South America, and Northern Africa. A rare variety of the chickpea is grown in Apulia, Italy.
Chickpeas are a nutrient-dense food. The food has a 20% of higher protein content and is also high in dietary fiber, folate, and dietary mineral content. Chickpeas are rich in essential amino acids like aromatic amino acids, tryptophan, lysine, and isoleucine. When cooked, chickpeas are 60% water, 9% protein, 3% fat, and 27% carbohydrates.
So why chickpeas from Portugal, and especially the one from Alentejo are better?
The Alentejo is a geographical area where soils are highly suitable for growing chickpeas, with strong texture (clay, clay-lime), rich in limestone, well-drained and bottomed. Here, around 1000 hectares are grown with the ‘Elvar’ variety, distributed among 40 producers (which represents a production that reaches almost 1/3 of the national requirements for this product), under the responsibility of AICF-Agro Inovação. This same variety is a success story of the program to improve dried vegetables, since it currently occupies 95% of the production area in the south of France. The varieties ‘Eldorado’ and ‘Elixir’ are also on the rise, also in France, confirming that the Portuguese chickpea is a product of excellence.
How to soak chickpeas
Chickpeas that have undergone the drying process have to be soaked in order to re-establish the water lost in the process, which also reduces the content of anti-nutrients, leading to a better bioavailability of nutrients.
The soaking process can be carried out in three different ways:
– In cold water (one night – best solution if you have the time);
– In boiling water (one hour);
– In the microwave (put the legumes in water and take them to the microwave).
for 10-15 minutes and then let stand for one hour).
In soaking can be added sodium bicarbonate, which allows the soaking to be more effective. However, this can lead to the destruction of thiamine reserves, in addition to being a source of sodium, reasons why it should be avoided. The water to be added should be 750 mL for every 250 g of legumes.
It is normally used as an integrated crop in cereal rotation. In the Alentejo, this crop is of great economic importance in certain regions (the so-called “Barros Fortes”), because it enables the mobilisation of the soil identified by fallowing to be profitable (a cultural operation carried out in the year preceding that in which the wheat was sown, in which the soil is ploughed three times to allow good mineralisation of the soil and coated with the culture of the chickpeas).