Dr. Tim Motis, Agricultural Technical and Research Director at ECHO, wrote an article about the crop, Chickpea seeds from ICARDA, in ECHO Development Notes 108 (July 2010) that can be accessed via this link http://www.echocommunity.org/resource/collection/CAFC0D87-129B-4DDA-B363-9B9733AAB8F1/Issue108.pdf
According to the article, chickpea production requires an annual rainfall of 26-39 in. (650-1000 mm), typical of semi-arid regions. Chickpea prefers temperatures from 64-79°F (18-26°C), although more established plants can tolerate higher temperatures. The soil temperature should be above 59°F (15°C) for proper seed germination. Though drought resistant, chickpea is intolerant of heavy rainfall. Seed setting is optimal at a relative humidity of 20-40%. When planting chickpea, seed in rows 25-30 cm apart or broadcast the seeds at a rate of 25-35 kg seed/ha.
The varieties planted at the ECHO Asia Seed Bank were seeded in early November at the beginning of the cool dry season. The crop was occasionally watered to keep the top soil suitably moist. No major pests or disease was observed over the 2011-2012 growing season.
Dr. Motis' article explains that green pods and young shoots of chickpea can be consumed as a vegetable, whereas sprouted seeds can be eaten as a vegetable or added to salads. More commonly, the dry seeds are used to make flour or dahl. The article includes a useful link to an on-line ICARDA publication that contains chickpea recipes; http://www.icarda.org/Publications/Cook/Cook%20Book.htm
The seeds are high in protein (20%) and are a good source of potassium. Chickpea seeds can also be milled for use as animal feed. Additionally, livestock can eat the green or dried leaves and stems. As an animal feed, chickpeas have been shown to have similar nutrition as soya cake.
The article also mentions that varieties of chickpea differ in pod size and seed color. Most varieties are classified as “Desi” or “Kabuli” types. Desi chickpea seeds are smaller, darker-colored and not as smooth as the cream-colored, mild-flavored seeds of the Kabuli varieties. The ECHO Asia Seed Bank is evaluating both types. Following the early November planting, the Desi type was ready for harvest in early February with the Kabuli type mature in early March.
ECHO Asia expects to have limited amounts of both types of chickpea seed ready for partners to evaluate soon. However, it would be best to wait until the early cool season to plant.