Chickpeas – bring a taste of the Mediterranean into the veg garden

For the last few years I have been growing chickpeas (Cicer arietinum) and had a bumper crop in 2018 as the weather was perfect for them. Chickpeas come from the Mediterranean and beyond, so like it warm and dry and are relatively easy to grow.

Here’s a quick guide on how to grow them. Chickpeas thrive on well-drained soil in a sunny spot. Being a legume, you may need an appropriate inoculum, in the same way as clover, but I have not needed that.

You can sow in modules as early as April, but don’t plant them out too soon as they need a warm soil to get established. You can sow direct too once the risk of frost has past.  Space at 15 cm with 30 cm between rows as the plants sprawl. If you are planning on harvesting a dry seed you need to allow 100 days or more.

I sow the white-skinned variety, Principe, which is supposed to taste better, but there is a dark-skinned variety that is said to be better suited to more northerly climes. Each pod contains one or two seeds which slowly swell.

Annoyingly, I have found voles and mice to be rather partial to chickpeas, so if I leave the pods to dry before harvesting I lose the crop, hence I pick them green. The pods are ready to pick when they feels firm, indicating the seeds have swollen up to maximum size.  They are delicious, lightly boiled and used in salads or made into hummus.

I have noticed that more seed companies are selling chickpea seed now. I have tried seed from Chiltern Seed and Franchi and found them to be good.