Today, we are talking about sowing and cultivating chickpeas in the home garden. Chickpeas, scientifically known as Cicer arietinum, rank as the third most important legume after soybeans and beans. They are primarily imported from countries like India and Pakistan, the world’s main producers. In Italy, chickpea cultivation was not widespread due to low yields, but with the rise of organic agriculture, it has been widely reassessed.
Cultivating chickpeas in the home garden is indeed within everyone’s reach. Moreover, this crop has few soil requirements and needs very little care.
Let’s see how to proceed with sowing and cultivating this legume using only organic techniques, so we can have healthy and delicious chickpeas for various recipes.
Chickpea cultivation, as mentioned earlier, requires minimal preparation. It is an annual herbaceous plant belonging to the family Leguminosae. Its origin is Asian, particularly from India, from where it spread to Africa and Europe in ancient times.
The chickpea has remarkable hardiness. Its root system is well-developed and can reach a depth of 120 cm.
The plant, with a grayish-green color, has branching and rough stems, ranging from 40 to 80 cm in height; the leaves are compound with 7 to 15 oval and serrated leaflets; the isolated and axillary flowers have a pink or purplish color.
The fruits are short and hairy pods, each containing 2-3 globular seeds with a light color, white or yellowish in the varieties cultivated in gardens.
Local Varieties of Chickpeas
There are some highly prized local varieties of chickpeas that are worth searching for. If you are fortunate, you may find them at traditional farmer seed exchange fairs. Among them are:
- Cicerale (Salerno);
- Merella (Alessandria);
- The “cece pizzuto” (L’Aquila);
- “Nero della Murgia,” a variety once used for livestock feed but now highly sought after for certain traditional recipes.
Climate and Soil Requirements
Chickpea cultivation thrives particularly well in warm climates, which is why it is more common in southern Italy. The crop should be positioned in a well-sunlit area of the garden. Chickpeas tolerate poor, arid, and dry soils better than any other legume. The key is to avoid clayey soils that tend to retain water and cause stress to the plant. The tillage of the soil should be thorough and deep to allow the root system to reach deep down.
Chickpeas are sown in autumn, just like broad beans, but only in regions with mild winter climates. Elsewhere, it is best to sow them between February and April since this cultivar is not very resistant to frost. The germination of the plant occurs properly at temperatures around 10 degrees Celsius.
Sowing Techniques for Chickpeas
Chickpeas are sown directly in rows spaced 50 cm apart, with the seeds evenly distributed along the rows. However, they can also be sown in clusters, burying 3-4 seeds in each hole at a distance of 20-30 cm.
Due to their characteristics, chickpeas do not require much water support, in fact, they may suffer from excessive moisture.
Chickpea cultivation does not require special care; it is sufficient to weed two or three times to remove weeds. Another necessary care is earthing up, usually done in May. This operation involves accumulating some soil around the plant to promote abundant root development.
Biological Pest Control
One of the most problematic insects for chickpea cultivation is the larva of Liriomyza cicerina, a leaf miner that can be controlled by using bacillus thuringiensis.
Another problematic insect is the chickpea weevil, Callosobruchus ornatus, which mainly attacks large stored commodities.
As for fungal diseases, there may be some risks, mainly related to water stagnation or adverse weather conditions. To avoid such problems, we must try to prevent water stagnation by favoring water drainage through appropriate soil management.
Chickpeas are usually harvested in July when the leaves begin to yellow. The entire plants are uprooted and left to dry in the sun for a few days to complete seed maturation. The seeds are obtained by beating the plants on the threshing floor or in a large basket, where they can be easily collected.
Unlike other legumes, such as peas, chickpeas are consumed exclusively when dry. They have a high energy value with a good protein content and low fat.
Due to their unique structure, cooking dried chickpeas requires long soaking and cooking times. There are many recipes that can be made with this legume, the simplest being the classic chickpea soup.
On the market, chickpeas are sold in different forms: dried for cooking, hulled, boiled, and preserved in jars or glass containers along with their cooking water. Sometimes they are roasted and salted or sold in the form of flour, used for making focaccias and farinatas. The Ligurian chickpea flour pancake is particularly famous and tasty.
- ResearchGate – “Chickpea” – An article discussing various aspects of chickpea, including its nutritional value and health benefits.
- ScienceDirect – “Nutritional constituent and health benefits of chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.)” – A comprehensive review of the nutritional constituents and health benefits of chickpea.
- Cambridge Core – “Nutritional quality and health benefits of chickpea” – A review article focusing on the nutritional quality and health benefits of chickpea.
- PubMed – “Chickpea protein ingredients: A review of composition” – An article reviewing the composition of chickpea protein ingredients.
- Frontiers – “Chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) as a Source of Essential Fatty Acids” – A study on chickpea as a source of essential fatty acids.
- Hindawi – “Nutritional Composition, Antinutritional Factors, and Utilization” – A research article on the nutritional composition, antinutritional factors, and utilization of chickpeas.
- Taylor & Francis Online – “Economic importance of chickpea: Production, value, and world trade” – An article discussing the economic importance of chickpea, including production, value, and world trade.
- PubMed – “Nutritional constituent and health benefits of chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.)” – Another review on the nutritional constituent and health benefits of chickpea.
- NCBI – “Chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) as a Source of Essential Fatty Acids” – A research article on chickpea as a source of essential fatty acids.
- Hindawi – “Nutritional Composition, Antinutritional Factors, and Utilization” – Another article on the nutritional composition, antinutritional factors, and utilization of chickpeas.