It’s hard to believe, but Canadian prairie farmers are already gearing up for harvest. They’re bailing hay and readying the combines. And with rain dousing the prairie region — much needed, following some of the driest months on record — the crop reports are looking up.
This fall, GRAIN will mark its first whole year in business, and what better way to celebrate than with a little love for the crop that started it all: the chickpea. Chickpeas were the first product we carried — the first Saskatchewan crop that Janna brought back to Vancouver from her family farm and that eventually landed on plates in the restaurants of our first customers.
At GRAIN we are huge chickpea fans. With a buttery texture, sandy colour, all-star nutritional profile and utter versatility, what’s not to love? Notable among legumes for their high oil content—five per cent of their weight, compared to other legumes at one to two per cent—chickpeas are crucial ingredients in recipes around the world.
We wouldn’t be here without them. So, as a thank you to the chickpea, here’s a little history:
With more than 9,000 years of history as a staple food in the diets of people around the world, chickpeas long ago earned the accolades of early agrarian societies. They were one of a small selection of the first crops to be cultivated, along with a handful of other grains, seeds and legumes.
So revered by the Romans, one of the most prominent families is even named for the chickpea: Cicero is from the Latin cicer arietinum. Fried chickpeas were called "kikos," meaning strength, and the legume was often ground and mixed with other cereals for baking bread with higher nutritional content.
Chickpeas are native to the arid climate of southwest Asia. Two main types are domesticated: the kabuli and the desi. Kabuli chickpeas are more prominent in the Middle East and Mediterranean, larger, creamier in colour and with a thinner seed coat. Desis are darker, smaller and tougher and more widely available in Asia, Iran, Ethiopia and Mexico. In Canada we grow both, but the Kabuli variety is more popular — and GRAIN’s preferred chickpea.
Canada is one of the most important chickpea growing countries, with the majority of our crop being exported to Asia and the Middle East. Saskatchewan alone accounts for almost 90 per cent of the country’s chickpea production, with thousands of farms planting a total of almost 2 million hectares of the crop annually.
But despite our leadership in pulse production, communities across Canada still import chickpeas from California or further afield from Turkey or India.
While known to be somewhat drought-tolerant, chickpeas are more prone to disease than other legumes, limiting the regions capable of growing them and farmers willing to risk a few losses.
At GRAIN we are pleased to be supporting Canadian farmers in southwestern Saskatchewan who supply our number-one grade 8mm and 10mm Kabuli chickpeas. You can find them on store shelves and in restaurant dishes all over Vancouver.