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Chickpea Profile

By Diane Huntrods, AgMRC, Iowa State University.

Updated May 2013 by Diane Huntrods, AgMRC, Iowa State University.


Chickpeas (Cicer arietinum) are a legume and a native of the Mediterranean region. The earliest chickpeas were found 7,500 years ago in Turkey and were known by the name "falcon face" in ancient Egypt.

Chickpeas, which grow in pods on small bushes, can be tan, yellow, red, dark green or brown in color. The two main varieties of chickpeas are the large, light-seeded kabuli type, also called garbanzo beans, and the small, dark-seeded desi type.

Chickpeas are a major ingredient of many Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Indian dishes. Dhal, or split desi chickpeas dried and cooked into a thick soup, is a traditional dish in India. Hummus, mashed chickpea mixed with oils and spices, is a popular appetizer in the Middle East and Mediterranean region.

Chickpeas are mainly cultivated in California, Idaho, Montana and Washington. The Palouse region of western Idaho and eastern Washington is especially well suited to chickpeas. Idaho is the leading producer of small desi chickpeas; Washington leads the nation in the production of large kabuli chickpeas. Other states with chickpea production include North Dakota, Oregon and South Dakota.

According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (2013), chickpeas were harvested from 206,300 acres in 2012, and U.S. production of all chickpeas totaled 3.3 million cwt. Washington led production with more than 1.3 million cwt, followed by Idaho with more than 1.2 million cwt.

Climate and Temperature
Some chickpeas can seed at 40 degrees F, but other varieties need 46 to 50 degrees F to seed. In the United States, seeds are sown in spring in late March to mid April. The crop tolerates frost and high temperatures during flowering.

Chickpeas are grown as a rainfed cool weather crop or as a dry climate crop in semi-arid regions. Irrigated crops yield 20 to 28 percent more than rainfed crops. For optimum yield, chickpeas need 12 to 18 inches of soil moisture during the growing season.

Chickpeas are self pollinated and propagated from seeds. In most areas, chickpeas are cultivated once about 3 to 4 weeks after sowing. Depending on their size, seeds are planted in narrow rows spaced 6 to 12 inches apart and at a depth of 1 to 2 inches.

Chickpeas need 3 to 7 months to reach maturity. At maturity, the leaves turn brown and/or yellow. Tall cultivars can be mechanically harvested. Regular cultivars are harvested by uprooting.

Drying and Storing
Chickpeas are stored at 15 percent seed moisture in bags; bulks are subject to insect damage.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) figures, India was the world’s largest producer of chickpeas in 2011, followed by Australia and Pakistan.

U.S. chickpea production was valued at $115.5 million in 2012, with a national average of $34.80 per cwt. In comparison, chickpea production was valued at nearly $40 million in 2009 and prices averaged $27 per cwt that year.

Value-added Products
Chickpeas take many forms as food items. In North America, most kabuli chickpeas are marketed as canned chickpeas for salads. They are also marketed as dry chickpeas and ground flour for baking purposes. Research is currently underway to develop a chickpea milk.

Elsewhere, chickpeas are eaten fresh as a snack food or served as a side dish. When prepared as a vegetable, they are sometimes simply tossed with pepper, salt and lemon or parched, fried, roasted or boiled. Sprouted chickpeas are eaten as a vegetable or added to salads. Young plants and green pods are eaten like spinach. When dried chickpeas are ground, the flour can be used to make bread.

Nutritional Value
One cup of cooked chickpeas contains: 164 percent of the daily value of molybdenum, which is a major component of the enzyme that detoxifies sulfites; 70.5 percent of the daily value of folate, 84 percent of the daily value of manganese, 29 percent of the daily value of protein and 49 percent of the daily value of fiber. Chickpeas have been known to prevent blood sugar from rising and to lower cholesterol. They are an excellent source of energy.

Export and Import
In 2012, exports of dried chickpeas totaled 72,250 metric tons (MT) and were valued at $67.5 million; both volume and value experienced double digit growth. Spain was the largest market, purchasing garbanzo beans valued at $17.6 million. Other major markets included Turkey and India.  (FAS)

The United States imported 11.3 MT of dried chickpeas valued at $13.7 million in 2012. The country also imported around 812,435 MT of fresh, frozen and prepared chickpeas valued at around $23.5 million.  (FAS)

Mexico was the largest supplier of dried chickpeas to the United States in 2012, shipping nearly $7 million. Mexico was also the largest supplier of fresh chickpeas to the United States, with shipments valued at $2.3 million. Canada was the largest supplier of prepared chickpeas, which were valued at $9.2 million, and of frozen chickpeas, which were valued at $3.2 million.  (FAS)

Per person consumption of garbanzo beans has slowly increased in the United States. In 2010 the amount of garbanzos eaten per person increased, reaching 0.44 pounds. The consumption rate has fluctuated from 0.07 to 0.45 pounds per person.  (ERS)

Crop Production Annual Summary, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), USDA.

Crop Values Annual Summary, NASS, USDA.

Global Agriculture Trade System, Foreign Agricultural Service, USDA.

U.S. per capita food availability, Economic Research Service (ERS), USDA.

Vegetables and Pulses Data: Yearbook Tables, ERS, USDA - Provides production, acreage, value, prices, imports, exports, per capita use and beginning stocks for major fresh market and processed vegetables.

Developed August 2007 and updated May 2013.


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