Pima County Seed Library (in Arizona) offers a seed for free to check out with your library card. They have many different seeds, but every year they feature a different one as part of their “One Seed Pima County” program. This year the seed is the kala chana garbanzo bean, also known as the black chickpea.
Garbanzo is also called chick pea, gram, Bengal gram, chana, Egyptian pea, and other variations. Scientific name is Cicer arietinum. The name kala chana is Hindu for a local variety of garbanzo that is darker than most.
Garbanzo are a cool season annual plant, native to the high mountain plateaus of eastern Turkey. In the wild, they emerge with the winter rains off the Mediterranean, grow, flower, set beans, and then die, all within roughly 100 days.
Since garbanzos are a cool season annual, start in October and up to November 15 if you can protect them from frost. Garbanzos are a type of bush bean, thus no trellis is needed.
Beds. Soil – well-drained, pH 6.5 to 7.2 (slightly acidic, neutral, mildly alkaline)
Light – 6 hours – thus in winter, full sun; in spring, afternoon shade good.
Garbanzo plants are mostly 20” tall. In rows, allow 18” to 24” between rows.
Sow. Beans do not respond well to transplanting, so are best direct sown into the soil.
Seeds germinate in 8 to 10 days, in soils of 70F to 80F.
Pre-soaking of seed is acceptable, but not needed.
Seeds remain viable for at least 5 years.
Plant the seed 1″ to 2″ apart, thin to 6” apart.
If you wish, sow with the eye of the bean facing downward (but it’s not a requirement).
Companions. Garbanzos can be mutually beneficial with strawberries and lettuce.
Due to their need to form a relationship with soil bacteria, avoid planting any beans near onion, garlic, shallots, fennel, marigolds, or any other plants with bacteria killing compounds in the roots.
Water. Garbanzos are fairly drought resistant when grown. When plants are young seedlings, check the soil frequently (daily) and water when the soil is dry more than one inch deep. In the wild, mature plants can have roots 2 feet deep, so encourage yours to do the same with deep, infrequent watering.
Fertilizer. Once established, garbanzo DO NOT require fertilizing and will generate their own nitrogen. However, if the leaves of many of your young plants are yellow or pale, this indicates an issue with nitrogen absorption – apply a one quarter strength application of fertilizer – once – should help them. If a single plant is stressed, remove it, it may have a virus or other underlying problem.
Next. Harvesting, storing and preparing garbanzo beans will be covered in about 100 days – about the time they are ready!
Learn more about some of the seed savers in the Southwest here.
Want to learn more? Look for my free lectures at your local Pima County Library branch, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening (Cool Springs Press, $23).
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