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25
May

chickpeas-closeup

Finally back in London and already missing the bustling Arab markets with their abundance of seasonal produce and where I can taste anything I want without any of the vendors being offended as they would be in Europe.

This year, I was lucky to be in the Middle East during fresh chickpeas season, my favourite snack as a child. My mother used to buy us large bunches from street vendors and we would sit on our balcony, popping pod after pod – unlike peas or fava beans, chickpeas come each in its own pod, except for the occasional twin chickpeas in the single pod – to munch on juicy and tender chickpeas.

After I left Beirut for London, I forgot about my healthy snack. No chance of finding any there, not even in Paris where I lived for a while. It wasn’t until I went to Crete, one early summer to research my Mediterranean Street Food book, that I saw them again but they were not so good, rather dry and starchy although this may have been because it was the end of the season.

But this year I struck it lucky in Lebanon. I was driving into Tripoli with my lovely friend, Jason Lowe, who is doing the photographs for my new book and as we approached the Mina roundabout, Jason spotted a woman sitting by a huge pile of fresh chickpeas. We stopped for him to take pictures, and of course, I couldn’t resist tasting them. It was a ‘madeleine’ moment. The chickpeas were as juicy and tender as those of days long gone, and I immediately sat by the lovely vendor popping pod after pod the way I did when I was a child.

fresh chickpeas-lady selling them

Here she is weighing the bunches.

fresh chickpeas-budles

And here are the bunches, nicely displayed on a table next to her for sale at just over a dollar each.

Later, we walked on the beach, with Jason taking more photographs (he took the lovely ones in this post) while I was greedily popping chickpeas out of their pods and into my mouth. There was a lovely, elegant couple sitting under a parasol, sipping coffee. We got talking and I offered them some of my chickpeas. She immediately told me how she used to snack on them as a child and I surprised her by telling her how they were now fashionable in California. I wish I could have told her they were also fashionable in England. Perhaps I should have a chat with the herbs and greens guy at Marylebone’s farmers market and get him to plant some, although I am not sure if the English weather is suitable.


There is 25 comments on this post


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    I totally identify with missing the markets of the Middle East when I am back in America. Fresh chickpeas, what a find!


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    I believe they are also becoming very fashionable in Montreal since they were all over the farmer’s market here a few weeks ago. However, they are not as fresh as the ones I remember from my childhood.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Lovely, Anissa. These are a huge favorite in Mexico. They don’t appear with the foliage but in big piles cooked in the shell, scooped into small bags, and eaten with a touch of powdered chile or chile and lime.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    mmm… i like the sound of them with chile and lime. and do you pop them out of their furry little pod? or do you eat the whole thing? x


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    hi annisa,

    we just had these in Mexico and serve them at Tacolicious here in SF too. like rachel says, lime, a little chile. delicious! here’s a post i just wrote about the ones we had in guadalajara. http://tacolicioussf.com/425-guadalajara-our-first-night

    enjoying your posts and thinking about you!


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    how interesting sara. i bet they are delicious this way, perhaps even more than when they are raw. you should have had the heart attack on a plate, and i’m glad you’re enjoying my posts. how’s it going? work, restaurant, children, etc. hope all is great. xx


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Hi, Anissa!
    And we, ins Spain, such passionate eaters of chick peas and I´ve never heard of eating them fresh.
    We eat, fresh from the pod, the fava beans, we love them with or without the pod but chick peas? I really don´t know. I assume it is because I live in Madrid. I´ll explore and let you know. They sound so delicious!
    Thanks for the commentary and for the discovery!
    Miles de abrazos,
    Alicia


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    We used to eat regular peas this way – and they were delicious! But I’ve never seen fresh chickpeas. Are they gold inside, or does that colour come with the drying?


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    amazing. i thought you would eat them fresh like us. let me know what you find out alicia, and many kisses from me too. hope to see you this summer in london. x


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    no, they are green when they are fresh and the yellow colour comes from drying.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    didn’t know they were fashionable here in California, guess I’m outta the loop! ha! They are in season now and they sell them at the Latin market across the street from my kitchen, I steam them w/ lime chile and garlic. They are the amuse bouche of many of my dinners this time of year. Can’t wait to dive into your Mediterranean Street Food book!


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    yum. must come over when i am next in California.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    I gew them last year but they take up to much place. You need a lot of plants to get a meal out of them. Amazing how cheap they are. I wondered if you can put them on the grill like you can do with favas.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    not sure. never tried but they are too small, each in an individual pot so perhaps not as suitable as the fava beans.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Dear Anissa,

    Thanks for this post – I live in Tripoli and I have seen this lady many times as I pass her on my way to work. Although I noticed this morning that she is now selling mish-mish (apricots) and krz (cherries). I think the roundabout that this photo is actually in that of Bhasas not Mina, but then that it just being picky.

    Lovely story. What always amazes me in Lebanon and in fact the rest of the region (I am from the UK originally) is the implicit connection between people (even ‘urbanites’) with local and seasonal produce. This is true even if Tripoli’s supermarket is only 50 meters away from where this photograph is taken. The incredulity with which people would look at you if you wanted to eat a cherry in December is something to be proud of.

    In the UK particularly we have simply come to expect everything to be available whenever. This leads to unsustainably produced and ‘perfectly formed’ goods carted from the ends of the earth. When so bland, boring, refrigerated and always available food becomes disjointed from reality. The thrill of the seasons with their accompanying foods is gone. No wonder I have to defend seasonal English/British foods to my Lebanese (or any other nationality for that matter, even Brits) friends. The thrill went out of that one in the industrial revolution.

    Thanks for this. And next time you are in Tripoli do look me up!


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    will do. i’ll be there in september. and sorry abt the mistake with the roundabout. i was convinced it was the one leading to the mina.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    oh, and say hello to the lady from me. we loved her.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Oh I really want to try these. They are SO beautiful. Lucky you having Jason Lowe, he’s a wonderful photographer.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    yup, and he’s a wonderful person too…


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Thanks for this — you’ve totally reminded me of my childhood too! Sadly I can’t imagine these getting popular here in Nottingham, though.
    In the past I’ve asked my dad (who grows chickpeas back in Lebanon) whether they would survive in the UK; he says probably not, but I suppose it could go either way.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    they probably need more heat than what we have in the UK.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    If Canada can be one of the top ten producers of Chickpeas, internationally, according to Wikipedia, then I imagine that they could fair well enough in the UK, especially if you are just trying to get them to their early season’d ‘edamame’ state.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    I want to know, where I can buy fresh green chickpeas (in pods) in England? Is there any specific place?


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    i am not sure. the season is end of may/june. try Middle Eastern shops and see if they import it.

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