Garbanzo beans, also more popularly known as chickpeas, belong to the legume family and are close relatives of peanuts, lentils and snap beans. Chickpeas are cool-loving annual plants that can grow easily in your garden with minimal maintenance.
Knowing how to grow garbanzo beans in your garden is both rewarding and economical, and you can take comfort in the fact that you have a steady source of chickpeas growing straight from your own yard.
Overview on Garbanzo Beans
Garbanzo beans or chickpeas are popular crops in Mediterranean, Indian and Southern Europe regions. In many of these areas, chickpeas are considered staples and are commonly used to make hummus and salads. But around the world, chickpeas are used in a variety of delectable dishes such as roasted chickpeas, salad wraps, soups, stews, cakes, truffles and many others.
Chickpeas produce pods containing an average of 1-2 seeds or beans. Garbanzo beans are generally harvested after 100 days of sowing and may be eaten raw and fresh, or dried.
Chickpeas are protein and fiber-rich. These are excellent additions to vegetarian and low-carb meal plans. Chickpeas are also tasty, fairly accessible and packed with health benefits. It is known to help manage diabetes; prevent heart disorders, cancer, and improve bone and digestive health.
1. Sowing Garbanzo Beans
Chickpeas are sown from the seeds contained in the pods. You may start planting chickpeas indoors one month before the last frost, or outdoors at least two weeks before the last frost. Chickpeas are sensitive to cold so it’s best to cover the ground with a layer of mulch in order to insulate the seeds.
If you’re planting indoors, it is important to opt for biodegradable pots. Their roots are sensitive and delicate and they don’t do well with transplantation. Plant two seeds in one pot about 1 inch apart and 1 inch deep into the soil. You will have to thin them out approximately 6 inches apart when they sprout.
Seeds planted into pots will need to be thinned out into the garden plot after two weeks after sowing. Whether you’re planting chickpeas seeds into pots or directly into the ground, it is important to choose the best location, soil composition and temperature.
Chickpeas love plenty of sun and soil that has good drainage and healthy composition. If required, you can amend the soil composition and drainage capabilities by mixing in some organic compost.
Plant chickpeas 3 inches apart and in rows of 18 inches in distance. When the sprouts are ready for transplanting, thin them out 3 inches apart as well. This will provide the optimum distance for support without the threat of overcrowding the bushes as the chickpeas grow.
As for temperature, the ideal soil temperature when planting is between 50-60F degrees. If you’re planting directly on a particularly cold weather, place a layer of mulch over the ground to insulate the beans and promote germination.
2. Caring for Garbanzo Beans
It is fairly easy to care for garbanzo beans. As long as they get enough sun, water (without overwatering) and some air circulation, they should bid well until harvest time.
Remove weeds and rocks from the soil and mix in some organic compost. Be careful when using fertilizer though because legumes like chickpeas generally create their own nitrogen. If you’re considering adding fertilizer, opt for ones with no nitrogen or go for the organic kind. Too much nitrogen can lead to an overwhelming bush and result to little yield.
Watering is an important element in caring for the growing chickpeas. If the soil is moist, you only need to water twice a week. Do not water overhead as moist leaves will attract molds and mildew. Instead, water directly into the ground.
Also, you will need to water less when the plants start to brown and wither as this signals that they’re ready almost ready for harvesting. The lack of water will help speed up the drying process.
Also note that garbanzos are not completely free from pests and infestations, but most of them are manageable. Aphids, grasshoppers and pod borers are the most common insects that eat into the plant. You can deter them with insecticides and throw away holed leaves. Diseases include root and stem rot but these can be avoided with direct watering instead of overhead watering.
3. Harvesting Garbanzo Beans
Garbanzo beans are ready for harvesting after 100 days. The tell-tale signs of their maturity are the swelling of the pods and the withering of the plants. You may pick and eat them fresh as you would with snap peas.
If you want to harvest them dry, pull out the entire plant and let them air dry. The pods will split and then you can collect the beans. Make sure to choose a dry place to let the plant air dry to prevent possible formation of molds and mildew.
Enjoying Chickpeas in Your Meals
There are numerous ways to use chickpeas in your meals. But first, you need to soak them in water overnight and drain before using. This helps make them tender a lot faster when cooking. After which, you can use the beans in your soups, salads or make them into humus.
Another way to use chickpeas in your cooking is to save the liquid used from cooking the beans. This is called aquafaba.
To make aquafaba, place soaked and drained beans into a pot and add in water. Cook the beans until tender. Drain and save the cooking liquid.
You can actually use this liquid as substitute for egg whites, such as when making meringue or baking cookies. Just remember that one egg white is equivalent to 3 tbsp of aquafaba.
Chickpeas are easy to grow and have many numerous uses in the kitchen, so it’s certainly a great decision to plant them in your own yard. Apart from dodging their commercial price, you also get to enjoy the fact that your beans are healthy and of good quality, from the garden right to your dining table.