Chickpea plants are multiple branched, spreading growth habit annuals ranging from 8 to 40 in. tall. Some chickpea varieties have compound leaves (8 to 20 leaflets) and some have simple leaves, which are pubescent (hairy) in appearance. Chickpea leaves exude malic and oxalic acids.
Kabuli (large seeded = 800 seeds/lb) varieties are generally taller than the desi (small-seeded = 1,500 seeds/lb) varieties.
Because of its deep tap root system, chickpea can withstand drought conditions by extracting water from deeper in the soil profile.
Flowers (self-pollinated) which are borne in groups of two or three are 1/2 to 1 in. long and come in purple, white, pink or blue color depending upon variety. Each flower produces a short, pubescent pod which is 3/4 to 2 in. Long and which appears to be inflated. One or two seeds (1/2 to 1 in. diameter) are present in each pod. The seeds come with either rough or smooth surfaces and can be creme, yellow, brown, black or green in color. There is a definite groove visible between the cotyledons about two-thirds of the way around the seed, with a beak-like structure present.
Chickpea is consumed as a dry pulse crop or as a green vegetable with the former use being most common. Seeds average about 20% protein, 5% fat and 55% carbohydrate.
Seeds are sold in markets either dry or canned. Common uses in United States are in soups, vegetable combinations, or as a component of fresh salads in restaurant salad bars. Chickpeas are naturally low in fat, high in dietary fiber and rich in vitamins and minerals.