After saying we’re not growing an experimental crop this year, we’ve decided to grow chickpeas! I popped to the garden centre the other day to pick up some chicken manure pellets; as I walked down the aisle the seed section caught my eye. I saw packets of seeds labeled Eden Project, amongst the packets were chickpea seeds. Of course I got two packets.
Chickpeas are part of the legume family, as they fix their own nitrogen they should be grown in relatively poor, but well drained soil. Chickpeas are susceptible to fusarium, a fungal disease, and other similar foot-rots, so they tend not to do too well in heavy clay, waterlogged soil, which of course we have! Too much nitrogen in the soil will promote ‘leafy’ growth at the expense of pod production. In the UK, chickpea plants should be grown in full sun. They grow best in dry conditions and at temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees.
Chickpea plants are bushy and only grow up to two feet tall, so yay, no supports are required! Compared to other legume plants the chickpea pod is relatively small, just an inch long, with each pod only containing one or two chickpeas. In terms of how many plants to grow, it seems from my research that around 7 to 8 plants should provide a decent yield for one person.
We’ll start the seeds off at home, in root trainers because like most legumes chickpea plants dislike root disturbance. Sow seeds from February until May. Sow the seeds about an inch deep and keep the compost moist until the seeds have germinated. The seeds can take up to two weeks to germinate. Once germinated, don’t over water the seedlings as they are prone to dampening off.
Plant out the seedlings once the risk of frost has passed and the plants are around 10cm to 15cm tall. Space the plants about 15 cm apart and the rows should be 60 cm apart.
I think we’ll sow our seeds at the end of April, to the beginning of May, depending on the weather. Chickpeas enjoy the dry, warmer weather the summer months offer. Chickpeas are reasonably hardy, they can withstand light frost and they’re also fairly drought tolerant; they have a low demand for water. Their roots are shallow, so it’s worth mulching the base of the plants. When watering, avoid watering the plant itself as this can promote mildew. Water moderately, once or twice a week during dry spells. Increase watering when the plants start to flower and produce pods.
It takes around two months before the the plants start to flower and produce pods. The pods can be harvested whilst they are still green. At this stage the chickpeas are supposed to taste something like a raw french bean meets a garden pea…. I’ll let you know!! Alternatively leave the pods on the plant to dry and go brown. Harvest when dried or pick as they brown and finish drying out at home. Once dried store the chickpeas for use throughout the year.
I’ll post chickpea plant updates later in the season.