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It seems that chickpeas are usually sold either canned (pre-cooked and stored in liquid) or in dried form.

Most other vegetables are also sold fresh and raw, like they are harvested. Is there a reason that chickpeas are not sold like this? Would they spoil too quickly? Or are they already dried when harvested?

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    A lot of legumes are sold like this really - lentils, and many beans. Peas (the round green sort) are also sold frozen, but rarely fresh. It's only when the pod is part of what you eat that they're sold fresh, at least in the UK, and as far as I've noticed in continental Europe and North American
    – Chris H
    Oct 19, 2023 at 10:21
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    @ChrisH: Yes, I know - the question is why. Also, at least here in Germany most other pulses are also sold fresh (or fresh and frozen), at least example peas and lentils.
    – sleske
    Oct 19, 2023 at 10:26
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    there's a reason I didn't answer, but just pointed out that the question is broader than just chickpeas (though my "only" was a bit strong - I have occasionally seen peas sold fresh). My suspicion is that it's got quite a bit to do with where they're grown compared to where they're consumed, but also historical reasons
    – Chris H
    Oct 19, 2023 at 10:29
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    @FuzzyChef I wouldn't called the information wrong. It is true that where OP is doing grocery shopping chickpeas are never sold fresh (namely in the UK). I've never seen them fresh in Germany either. This isn't true globally but there are good reasons why it is true in the UK, both of which is explained in the excellent answer by FuzzyChef.
    – quarague
    Oct 20, 2023 at 7:16
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    @quarague SA cannot answer the question of "why are these not available in the UK" though. It's right there in our list of questions we don't answer, because all answers would be speculation. I also suspect that they are available in the UK, you just need to go to one of the bigger Indian markets in the early summer. But I don't live in the UK so I don't know for sure.
    – FuzzyChef
    Oct 20, 2023 at 15:27

2 Answers 2

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Chickpeas are sold fresh. They just have a short season, and they're annoying to prepare, so you'll only find them in specialty markets unless you live in an area that eats a lot of chickpeas. In the US, you can find them seasonally at high-end organic groceries like Whole Foods and Market of Choice, and of course in Middle Eastern food markets and farmer's markets.

fresh chickpeas at a farmer's market

As you can see from the picture, chickpeas have small fuzzy pods that are one-per-pea. This means that shelling them is very time-consuming; even in places where chickpeas are a staple of the diet, they are mostly eaten dried because it's just easier. There are specific recipes for fresh chickpeas in those cuisines, though.

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    That's interesting! My grandparents grew their own chickpeas, but never harvested them at this stage. So it's maybe a tradition that hasn't spread much geographically.
    – rumtscho
    Oct 19, 2023 at 19:43
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    It's mostly an Indian and Middle Eastern thing, which is not a surprise, because after all who eats the most chickpeas?
    – FuzzyChef
    Oct 20, 2023 at 0:09
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    It’s also an Italian thing. Look for recipes calling for ‘green garbanzos’
    – Joe
    Oct 21, 2023 at 3:30
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    They're also available at Latin markets in California. @Joe i'd expect Italian recipes to call them cecis. Recipes from the Spanish speaking world call them garbanzos.
    – The Photon
    Oct 21, 2023 at 23:08
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Because that's when legumes are considered ripe - when they are dry.

If you have ever grown and picked your own legumes, you'll know that they are left on the plant until fully ripened. At that point, the pod is dry like straw, and the seeds inside are hard. They are then harvested and stored as a convenient shelf-stable crop. These are the "dried" chickpeas you refer to.

There are a few legumes which are bred for producing a fleshy pod, and they are eaten at a different point in development. A typical example is the green bean. There, you pick the pod when it's at a already-thick-but-not-dried stage, and cook the pod, along with the rudimentary seeds inside. I'm not aware of any such cultivar having been bred for chickpeas.

The first kind of legume can in principle be picked and eaten while still unripe, but that makes little sense. The grower would be sacrificing both caloric potential and shelf life, two factors which were quite important among subsistence farmers.

Two exceptions (that I know of) have happened to establish themselves - peas and edamame, and I think both of them were quite local before globalization. In both cases, the seeds are eaten at a "fresh" stage in addition to being left to ripen into dry peas and soy, respectively. A credible explanation of why exactly these two happened to have this rare fate, while others didn't, would require a large research project for a historian, and is thus out of our scope. But to sum up, there is no good reason to expect a random legume to be cooked in an unripe state.

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    Another bean widely eaten as fresh seeds is broad beans (aka fava beans, foul), and I’ve met a few more localised ones too when travelling. I don’t think this type is really such a rarity as this answer currently suggests — legumes of all three forms (fleshy pods // fresh seeds // dry seeds) are major staple crops in many cultures. But, certainly, the dry seeds are probably the predominant form overall, thanks to their shelf-life.
    – PLL
    Oct 19, 2023 at 18:58
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    Thank you for the great answer. I found it very helpful, also the part about the pods.
    – sleske
    Oct 19, 2023 at 21:31
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    I remember reading somewhere that eating fresh peas is a fairly new idea, at least in England, and historically they were always used dry. But I can't remember where I read it, so can't look up the reference.
    – Dronir
    Oct 20, 2023 at 7:24
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    @Dronir my understanding - having also read something recently is very slightly different: It's only with ubiquitous freezers that we've had the option to have them not dried, year round, in cities (where people documenting food tend to live). In rural areas they've always been eaten fresh
    – Chris H
    Oct 20, 2023 at 8:19
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    @Dronir: Quick googling shows that apparently peas have been cultivated since prehistoric times, and apparently they were eaten both fresh and dried, depending on circumstances. It's possible that they were mostly eaten dried in some periods or regions, of course.
    – sleske
    Oct 20, 2023 at 9:34

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