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.