Shades of green: Green garbanzo beans are a fresher, tastier chickpea

Shades of green: Green garbanzo beans are a fresher, tastier chickpea

I’m sure most of you have eaten — or at least seen — garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas) in your lifetime. The small, beige, dried legumes are soaked and boiled (and are often packaged in a can) and used in a variety of dishes from all over the globe — most notably hummus and falafel — or tossed in vegetable salads and pasta dishes.

But you might want to forgo the dried and canned mature garbanzos for their younger, tastier counterparts: the green garbanzos. Green, or “fresh” garbanzos are little legumes that have been picked earlier than their older sibings, blanched and flash-frozen instead of being matured on the vine and then dried.

Green garbanzos are fairly new to the American food scene, having been introduced to consumers in 2010 by Clearwater Country Foods, and can now be found in some grocery stores in the frozen aisle for a few bucks a bag. I recently discovered these verdant beans and am in foodie heaven, as they have a wonderful flavor and a number of culinary applications.

The flavor of these little green beauties has been compared to that of fresh peas; the taste is nutty and more buttery than that of their dried counterparts. The green garbanzos are also higher in protein, folate and fiber, and they’re chock full of antioxidant vitamins A and C, phytonutrients, iron and minerals.

“It’s just an immature garbanzo bean that is picked in its fresh state, and consequently its nutritional values are higher and it’s much more flavorful,” Doug Moser, founder of Clearwater Country Foods told the Spokane Spokesman-Review. “The simple reason is that the natural sugars haven’t turned to starch.”

Green garbanzos can be used in place of standard garbanzos, peas and edamame (soy beans) in a variety of dishes, like the green garbanzo hummus recipe I’ve shared below. They’re fine being heated up on the stove top or in the microwave — just make sure not to overcook them, as they’ll lose some of their wonderful color and texture — or simply thaw them and throw them into a dish as is.

My prediction is that green garbanzos will make their way into home kitchens and onto restaurant menus in a big way this year because of their uniqueness, flavor and nutritional benefits.

Here’s my recipe for green garbanzo hummus with Asian flavorings. It’s a quick, easy and incredibly tasty addition to any party spread, or great as a simple snack with some crudite and crackers. If you’re feeling really ambitious, whip up some fried or baked wonton chips to accompany it.

Asian-Inspired Green Garbanzo Hummus

2 cups (or one bag) frozen green garbanzos, thawed
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 scallions (green onions), roughly chopped
1-inch fresh ginger, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
1 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (or less if you want less heat)
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon canola oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Sesame oil, for drizzling

Directions:

1. Put the green garbanzos, garlic, scallions, ginger, cilantro and spices in a food processor or blend. Blend until the mixture starts to become homogenous and smooth. Open the lid, scrape down the sides of the bowl.

2. Turn the processor back on and, with the motor running, slowly pour in the lime juice, rice vinegar and then the canola oil. Open the lid again, scrap down the sides, taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Blend again until completely smooth. Add more water or flavorings if necessary.

3. To serve, scoop into a bowl and drizzle it with a teaspoon or two of sesame oil. Garnish with sliced scallions and cilantro leaves. Serve at room temperature. Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to a week.

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