I Eat These All The Time… But When I Saw Them Like This at the Store, I Had No Idea What They Were!

Anyone have any idea what these are?

I was stumped. Clearly pods of some kind, a little bit fuzzy, a little rounder and fuller than soybeans. It took me a moment to even find the sign, before I realized  it was hanging off the front of the display, and I was blocking it with my own body.

FRESH GARBANZO BEANS? For real? I’ve eaten garbanzos all my life (you may know them as chickpeas), and I’ve never seen them fresh before. I love discovering new items in the produce section – I have a whole archive of discovery blog posts – so even though I had no idea what I’d do with them, I scooped up a couple handfuls and brought them home.

I did a little research when I got home, and found a bunch of ideas for how to prepare fresh garbanzos. Some ideas basically suggested doing what you’d do with canned garbanzos, like roasting them, or blending them into hummus, and that didn’t seem so appealing to me, because, well, I can do them with canned garbanzos. (I have, by the way, an excellent roasted garbanzo recipe.)

I also learned a couple garbanzo fun facts, and I do love a good fun fact (or ten)! For example, garbanzos are one of the longest-cultivated legumes; people were growing them in the middle east over 7,500 years ago. Nowadays, India is the world’s largest grower of chickpeas, followed by Australia and Pakistan. The United States is 10th on that list.

In addition to eating the beans, in some parts of the world, people eat the leaves of the garbanzo plant, and they’re more nutrient-dense than spinach. And, in Germany, there’s a history of using roasted garbanzos to brew coffee, instead of coffee beans, that dates back over 200 years. Lastly, garbanzos are preserved with syrup in the Philippines, where they’re used in desserts like halo-halo. I actually knew this, because I tried halo-halo a few months ago when I tried all sorts of Filipino food.

RELATED CONTENT: Two Delicious Salad Recipes That Use Garbanzos: Asparagus and Sugar Snap Salad with Molasses Vinaigrette, and Riced Cauliflower and Veggie Salad.

Ultimately, I decided to do something simple with my fresh garbanzos, and enjoy them in a way that I couldn’t enjoy the canned ones: by steaming them and eating them like edamame. First, though, I popped a few raw ones in my mouth – because I had read that you can eat them raw – and gave that a try. They were crunchy, and a little bland, and with that mild garbanzo flavor that I’m used to, and while they weren’t terrible, they weren’t particularly tasty, either.

The rest of the pods went into my Richard Simmons Steam Heat steamer, and I steamed them for eight minutes. (I guessed for the time, and it turned out to be pretty accurate!) This is before cooking:

And this is after. I hit them with a sprinkle of salt and pepper after they come out of the steamer.

You can eat them like edamame: put the whole pod in your mouth, and either suck out the beans, or pull the pod out from between your clenched teeth, leaving the beans behind. The flavor didn’t really change from eating them raw, but having them warm and tender made a huge difference. Plus, the pods are a little fuzzy, and there’s a bit of air in there, so there’s a fun little pop that happens when they burst in your mouth.

I peeled a couple by hand, too. Some pods had one bean, but some had two or even three. The beans look like garbanzos, but green.

Garbanzos, whether they’re fresh, dried, or canned, are an excellent source of potassium, fiber, magnesium, and iron. Studies also suggest that garbanzos may help lower your cholesterol, too. I didn’t buy tons of fresh garbanzos, and once I separated the beans from the pods, I estimated I had about 1/4 cup. That 1/4 cup had 182 calories, 4 grams of fat, 30 grams of carbs, and 10 grams of protein.

A new healthy snack idea I can add to my repertoire!

Keep it up, David!

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