At the Market: Fresh Chickpeas

When Beth called to tell me she’d spotted fresh chickpeas in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market, I could barely contain my excitement. She emailed me a photo as further proof. Then Liz of Cafe Liz confirmed this discovery, confirmed how special it was. You see, fresh chickpeas (also called green chickpeas and fresh garbanzo beans) are only available in Jerusalem. Not in Tel Aviv at the Carmel Market. Certainly not in Be’er Sheva’s shuk. But there they are in Jerusalem, at both the Mahane Yehuda market and the smaller market just inside Damascus Gate, in the Arab section of the Old City.

And so, last week Beth and I hopped on a bus and traveled the hour and a half to Jerusalem, just for fresh chickpeas. From the Jaffa Gate, which manages to border the Christian, Armenian, and Jewish sections, we walked the entire length of the shuk to the Arab quarter and Damascus gate. Weaving through bumbling, fumbling tourists, ignoring shopkeepers cries to buy their wares, making wrong turns only to be greeted by soldiers with machine guns, places where we were not welcome. We tried to stay in as straight a line as possible, fearful that the labyrinthine alleyways would lead us astray (they always do, and sometimes getting lost in the Old City is fun, but today we were on a mission).

And there, just inside the Damascus Gate, were piles and piles of fresh chickpeas. Green, fuzzy little pods that resemble fresh almonds in shape, color, and texture. But unlike fresh almonds, which can be eaten shell and all, fresh garbanzos must be peeled. What waits inside is a green version (green both in appearance and taste) of what we’ve come to know as chickpeas. While the shape is recognizable as a chickpea, the flavor is more like that of a fresh sweet pea or edamame.

Many of us – vegetarians in particular – are well aware of the health benefits of chickpeas, and the fresh variety is if anything even more healthful. According to CaliFresh, a California producer of fresh chickpeas, the green legumes “are full of protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber and contain no trans or saturated fats. They are ‘nutrient dense,’ containing good amounts of vitamins A,C,& E, potassium, iron, manganese, copper, zinc and calcium as well as being a good source of folate, which is important for growing oxygen-carrying red blood cells.” They are also low in calories, high in fiber, and significantly lower in sodium than their canned cousins. Not to mention that they taste just delightful.

Armed with my pound of fresh chickpeas, I had to move to the next planning stage: deciding what to do with them. Beth told me she’d read that they could be fried and eaten like edamame, which sounded amazing. But I also had a vision of a salad in my head. It composed itself really. Fresh chickpeas, razor-thin slices of onion and radish, mint, lemon, and Bulgarian cheese. Bulgarian cheese is closely related to Feta with the same crumbly texture, but is less salty, with a more subtle, milky flavor. I actually prefer it and felt it would be more appropriate here, allowing the fresh chickpeas to shine. However, if Bulgarian cheese is not available Feta would be a good substitute.

Since I couldn’t decide which preparation I wanted more, I did both. And I have to say, they were each incredible, highlighting the fresh garbanzos in a different way. The charred chickpeas were smoky and salty, a snack that you have to work for, but with a worthwhile reward. And the salad was light and refreshing, perfect for summer and with flavors that just sang. I could eat this salad every day for the rest of my life.

Although fresh chickpeas are still uncommon, it seems that they are becoming more widely available so keep your eyes open at a local farmer’s market near you. For more recipe ideas, check out Beth Michelle’s roasted chickpeas and fresh chickpea guacamummus/hummamole, Cafe Liz’s tomato soup with fresh chickpeas and smoked wheat, and CaliFresh’s recipe page.

Charred Fresh Garbanzo Beans
Adapted from New York Magazine
Yield: 2 cups
  • Corn oil, or other high temperature oil (olive oil works too)
  • 2 cups fresh chickpeas (in their shells)
  • Salt
  1. Coat pan in a thin layer of oil and heat over high heat. When the oil is hot (check by seeing if a drop of water sizzles on the pan) add the chickpeas. Allow to cook undisturbed 1 minute, or until the bottoms are slightly charred. Shake the pan to turn the chickpeas and cook for another minute or two, until charred to your liking. Toss with salt and serve. Eat like edamame, by squeezing the beans from their pods with your fingers and teeth.

Fresh Chickpea Salad
Yield: 2 to 4 servings as a side
  • 1¾ cups fresh chickpeas, shelled
  • ⅛ cup very thinly sliced onion
  • 1 thinly sliced breakfast radish
  • 1 tablespoon chiffonade mint
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup crumbled Bulgarian cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Heat a large pot of salted water over medium heat. When boiling, add the chickpeas. Cook, stirring often, until tender and to your liking, 5 to 10 minutes. Drain and run under cold water. Combine the chickpeas, onion, radish, and mint in a medium bowl. Add the lemon juice and olive oil and toss to combine. Top with Bulgarian cheese and season with salt and pepper.




47 thoughts on “At the Market: Fresh Chickpeas

  1. Nami @ Just One Cookbook

    Hi Katherine! You are such a great writer. I know writing is your career, but I really enjoyed reading your post today. I’m not familiar with chickpeas (I love hummus though) and it was very informative! I just imagined that you and Beth hopped on a bus and went to the market for the chickpeas – it’s so fun to explore in a foreign country. Your pictures and recipes are amazing as well.

    • Katherine

      I never had before either! If you can’t get fresh chickpeas then peas (preferably fresh sweet peas) would make a good substitute.

  2. Beth

    Perfect salad. It sounds wonderful!! I think we may need to make a trip back to Jerusalem before the season is over, I’m sad that I’m all out. BEAUTIFUL photos!

  3. Manu

    What a great salad! I have never eaten fresh chickpeas but they sound quite yummy. I love that you added cheese to the salad (I often do) and mint… oh, one of my favorite fresh herbs!!!

    • Katherine

      I love cheese and mint too! Obviously… Again, fresh peas and feta would make good substitutes for fresh chickpeas and Bulgarian cheese.

    • Katherine

      Thank you so much! I’m so glad you found me 🙂 Do they have fresh chickpeas in Russia? (Just checked out your site – love it!)

    • Katherine

      I wonder how this salad would be with regular canned chickpeas – I might have to find out! Thanks for stopping by!

    • Katherine

      Thanks so much! I had never had fresh chickpeas before either but am so glad I got to try them.

  4. Lauren

    Both of these look delicious! I saw them at the shuk about a month ago and when I asked what they were and the man replied, “hummus,” I thought to myself….”My Hebrew must be awful and he didn’t understand my question.” But no! My Hebrew was fine and they really were fresh chickpeas. Crazy.

  5. Katherine

    Thanks everyone for the comments and kind words! Lauren, I love that the word in Hebrew for chickpea is just “hummus” – that confused me to no end for a while! But what else do you do with chickpeas? You make hummus of course. Fabulous.

  6. Dixie Caviar

    What a fun adventure! I like to flash fry fresh chickpeas in their shells and sprinkle with a little sea salt. It’s an impressive appetizer — people go crazy for them. Thanks for sharing your version.

  7. Carolyn Jung

    It’s not always easy finding these, but they are worth searching for. I tell ya, they make the best and easiest snack with cocktails for entertaining. Whenever I’ve made these for friends, they just go crazy for them and are so intrigued, having never seen fresh garbanzos before.

  8. Inbal

    Hi Katherine,

    I was inspired by this blog and made sure to get some fresh green humus beans at Machane Yehuda. I am so excited to share this goodie around with friends!

    Thanks and shabbat shalom

    • Katherine

      Oh I’m so glad to hear that Inbal! Jealous that you were in Jerusalem to get more chickpeas. I need to go back soon!

  9. Karen

    I found your recipe on tastespotting and thought – I’ve seen fresh chick peas at my local market – I didn’t know what they were so I’ve always passed them up. I scooped up a bag full yesterday and plan on giving your first recipe a try with weekend. Thanks for a new twist on chickpeas!

    • Katherine

      You’re so welcome! Keep an eye out, I have a feeling they are going to start popping up more at farmers markets and Whole foods, but who knows.

  10. Simcha

    I too love fresh green chickpeas but thank Goodness mine are a bit more local than having to travel an hour and half to get them. Then I was amazed after reading the length you go to get them is that you only bought a pound. Why not 2 or a few? imagine a weeks worth of salads or green hummus.

    • Katherine

      Haha I know! It’s true! Three reasons: I tend to get over excited and buy too much and then things go bad so I was trying to avoid waste. Also, it looks like a lot more than it is because of course you have to shell them. And, finally, I had no idea how good they would be!!! I got two separate preparations out of them and was very satisfied. Of course if left me wanting more!

  11. Richard

    A beautiful piece you have written here, thank you. One point though, you say low in calories but fresh chickpeas are 364 per 100g: is that low?

    • Katherine

      Hi Richard, I apologize for the delayed response, I must have missed your comment! You make a good point about the calories. I guess I was mistaken! Thank you for pointing it out!

  12. Shmuel Browns

    I first discovered fresh chickpeas a couple of years ago when I was out exploring the Old City. Just inside Damascus gate were Arab women (mostly) with piles of something that I had never seen before. By a fluke, I happened to bump into my Moroccan neighbor who was buying a kilo so I asked him what they were. Chickpeas! I asked him what do you do with them and he said you can spread them (in their shells) on a cookie sheet and bake them in the oven for about 10-15 minutes and then eat them. So i did the same, bought a kilo. Incredibly delicious.
    The second time I was guiding a couple around the Old City and I bought them a small bag of roasted chickpeas from a street vendor (10 year old Arab boy). Also delicious.

    • Katherine

      Thank you for sharing Shmuel! I was beyond excited when I discovered fresh chickpeas for the first time, also in Jerusalem. It’s amazing to consider that something we see canned or dried was, at one point, fresh! I can’t wait for fresh chickpea season again this year!

  13. Heather

    Chick Peas in Malta.
    This is the time of year (May/June) that many of the market stalls in Malta sell their fresh chick peas on the vine and you see shoppers wandering around the stalls with a bundle of stalks, munching the peas, they can be quite addictive.

  14. Dori G

    here in California I found fresh chick peas today in our local Mexican market! Thank you for the ideas on how to use them.

    Dori G

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