Before I get started on my tried-and-true hummus recipe, let me just say that I have been looking forward to this blog post for a long, long time (and so has Nate, because that means he gets to eat all of it).
The deliciousness known as hummus (pronounced “hoo-moose”) is a dip made from chickpeas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans), tahini (sesame paste), olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and spices. Although hummus has become very popular in the U.S. in the last five years as a fantastic vegetarian source of protein, this is not just some trend! Chickpeas have been popular for thousands of years, as Middle Eastern remains have shown that the earliest known cultivation of chickpeas was about 7500 years ago. First found in the Middle East and India, chickpeas were then introduced to the rest of the world thanks to Spanish explorers and their mighty, mighty ships. Chickpeas are still an absolute staple in India’s vegetarian cuisine, Middle Eastern cuisine, and some African cuisine. And now, thanks to the powers of the natural foods section in your local grocery, hummus is now a staple in the American healthy diet.
Bean anatomy is characterized by an embryo inside (which in mature chickpeas turns soft when cooked), a hinge-like structure called a hilum, and a seed coat surrounding the embryo which varies in thickness in different bean varieties. There are three main types of garbanzo beans, plus one extra rare type: desi beans, which are small, dark, and have very rough coats; bambai chickpeas, which are slightly larger than Desi beans, dark, and are the most commonly used type in India; kabuli chickpeas, which are large and beige with soft coats and are what most people think of when they think of chickpeas; and the extra rare ceci neri, a black chickpea that is only grown in very specific parts of southern Italy. Desi and bambai chickpeas are primarily used in Indian subcontinental cuisine, while kabuli chickpeas are used for Middle Eastern cuisine, especially hummus. Although kabuli chickpeas are cultivated worldwide, there are over 90 different known genotypes of this species of chickpeas! The chickpeas cultivated in the Middle East are a different genotype of kabuli chickpeas than those in the U.S.; they are just slightly smaller and can blend more easily, while those cultivated and sold in North America are slightly larger and a little grainier when blended. Alas, the hummus we make from garbanzo beans grown in America will never be exactly like hummus from the Middle East, but we can come pretty darn close.
Now excuse me while I dip out of here so suddenly, there is a giant vat of homemade hummus in my fridge with my name on it.