UK Harvests Its First Crop of Chickpeas

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CC BY-SA 3.0. Sanjay Acharya/Wikimedia – Two varieties of chickpea: the larger light Kabuli and variously coloured Desi chickpea. They are green when picked early & vary through tan, speckled, dark brown, black. 75% of world production is of the smaller desi type.

This is precisely the kind of healthy, sustainable agriculture we should be trying to expand globally.

Some exciting news has just come out of the United Kingdom. The country's first-ever commercial crop of chickpeas has been harvested after a successful growing season. The total amount is estimated to be around 20 tonnes, all grown by four farmers in Norfolk, eastern England. The Guardian says the chickpeas will eventually be dried and packaged and go on sale in mid-September.

Chickpeas have been an ongoing agricultural experiment in the UK for the past five years, said Josiah Meldrum, co-founder of Hodmedod, a company that specializes in pulses. He says they've been focusing on two varieties of chickpea – "kabuli, which are the pale smooth round peas with which most of us are familiar, and desi, which have brown skins and are smaller and more wrinkled. Desi chickpeas are generally split and used to make chana dal and gram flour."

The chickpea harvest follows on the heels of the UK's first lentil crop in 2017, and a batch of chia seeds grown last year. All of these crops are a response to the surge in 'clean eating' and the demand for ingredients that never used to be considered mainstream. Chickpeas are usually imported to the UK, with India providing 67 percent of the global supply in 2017.

I've written before about chickpeas' meteoric rise in popularity and how they've developed a reputation fairly recently for being healthy, affordable, and accessible, not to mention delicious. I wrote at the time,

"Chickpeas are exactly the kind of thing we need to grow more of. They require relatively little water to produce and are primarily rain-fed. One pound of pulses requires only 43 gallons of water to produce, compared to 1,857 gallons of water for one pound of beef (via Chickpeas are nitrogen-fixers, meaning they enrich the soil in which they grow; this replaces the need to add nitrogen fertilizers."

So it's great news to hear that the UK is pursuing commercial chickpea crops. I'm sure they'll have no shortage of buyers; the Guardian mentions a 2013 survey that found it to be the "hummus capital of Europe, with 41 percent of people having pots in the fridge – almost twice as many as in any other country."

Just think, now all that hummus can be local, too!