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Garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas, Bengal grams, and Egyptian peas) have a delicious nutlike taste and buttery texture. They provide a concentrated source of protein that can be enjoyed year-round and are available either dried or canned. The Latin name for garbanzo beans, Cicer arietinum, means small ram, reflecting the unique shape of this legume that somewhat resembles a ram's head. Garbanzos have a delicious nutlike taste and a texture that is buttery, yet somewhat starchy and pasty. A very versatile legume, they are a noted ingredient in many Middle Eastern and Indian dishes such as hummus, falafels and curries. There are two basic types of garbanzo beans. Most commonly seen at salad bars and in canned products are the kabuli-type. These beans are cream-colored or sometimes whitish in color, fairly uniform and rounded in shape, and about twice as large as the second desi-type. In addition to being much smaller, desi-type beans are darker (light tan to black in color) and more irregular in shape. From a botanical standpoint, the desi-type beans also have a thicker seed coat (the seed coat is the protective outermost layer of the bean). While kabuli-type beans are the ones we are accustomed to finding in U.S. salad bars and grocery stores, they actually represent only 10-20% of the garbanzo beans consumed worldwide, where the vast majority of garbanzos are desi-type beans. There are great health benefits from both types of garbanzos. However, in the case of some nutrients - including some antioxidant nutrients like quercetin, kaempferol and myricetin - desi-type beans provide more concentrated nutrient amounts since these nutrients are found in the seed coat and this seed coat is thicker in desi-type beans.
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