Man has been cultivating chickpeas for at least 7000 years. The seed of a bush, chickpeas are beige coloured and shaped like a hazelnut.

Dried chickpeas require lengthy soaking and boiling so many people find ready-to-use canned chick peas preferable.

A rich flour, handy for speciality Indian and Italian cooking, is also made from chickpeas.

The essential ingredient of houmous, chickpeas break down into a wonderfully smooth purée that makes them ideal for creamy soups. They are used to make fritters such as falafel and are good braised, perhaps with onion, lemon and olive oil, or in curries such as channa dal.

Chickpea flour is used to make pancakes and fritters, especially in India and Italy. Whole dried chickpeas can also be sprouted and added to salads.