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Chickpeas: Small and Mighty Beans
Among the earliest cultivated beans, chickpeas add savory protein to myriad dishes across as many cultures. Check out Groupon’s guide to get a taste of this ancient legume.
Garbanzo, gonzo bean, ceci bean, chana: the chickpea travels the world’s cuisines under a variety of aliases. These small, round legumes are low in fat and creamy in texture, and are easily cooked into stews, sprinkled on salads, or even popped like popcorn. Their high protein content makes them a go-to for hearty vegetarian meals, including crisp falafel patties and Indian dishes such as chana masala. In perhaps their most popular form, chickpeas form the base of hummus when blended with tahini and spices.
Chickpeas are likely among the earliest cultivated legumes—evidence of them has been found in the Middle East dating back 7,500 years. They’ve even made their way into ancient literary history. The chickpea’s name has nothing to do with its palatability to little birds; instead, it was taken from the Latin word cicer, which itself was inspired by the scar, or cicatrix, that bisects each bean where its umbilical cord was cut. This word, many scholars believe, lent Roman philosopher Cicero his surname—the great orator, it is thought, was descended from a long line of chickpea farmers. Plutarch, however, related a competing theory: an “ancestor of Cicero, as it would seem, had a faint dent in the end of his nose like the cleft of a chick-pea,” he wrote in his biography.