Chickpeas or garbanzo beans, have been a staple in Mallorcan kitchens for many, many years and most farmers plant their seeds at the beginning of February to coincide with the feast of Santa Apolonia, although others prefer to wait until the first Friday in March.
Chickpeas are rich in protein, zinc, thiamin, vitamin B6 and magnesium and cooked chickpeas are high in amino acids.
There are hundreds of recipes for chickpeas, but hummus is probably the most famous, which is made by cooking the chickpeas then grinding them into a paste.
According to historical records, chickpeas were used to make a jewish vegetable stew called Adafina as far back as the 10th century BC.
Antoni Sureda is an experienced farmer from Son Vell and a collaborator of the Association of Local Varieties of Mallorca who always plant their chickpeas at the feast of Santa Apolonia.
"I like to follow the old customs of the farmers," he explains. “If you sow the chick peas on the first Friday in March you risk a lot because if it doesn't rain the plant won’t grow properly and the harvest won’t be so good.”
Once upon a time one quarter used to be enough to provide for the family, but this year Sureda has planted about 10 quarters of Mallorcan chickpeas.
"They are easy to cook and are also very good for animals and if you sow them in red call soil they’re much easier to cook than if they’re sown in clay soil,” he says. "We eat chickpeas in stews or other recipes at least once a week and now it's also fashionable to eat them green."
Chickpeas are also one of the most popular foods for animal fattening.
"It's the best thing you can feed a pig for slaughter, it makes the meat very compact, not watery and when they’re slaughtered they usually weigh 15% more,” Sureda explains.
The chickpea is a summer plant which is sown in February, then harvested in July.
“Before sowing it’s advisable to treat the chickpeas with copper, sulphate them with a concrete mixer and let them rest for 15 days in a sack, so that they don’t catch the disease known as 'chickpea rabies' which is a kind of mildew,” he explains. “Lately the crops have also been attacked by a butterfly which can affect production and the soil must be really well loosened and broken up before sowing.
Toni favours organic production, so he sows about 80 kilos per quarter and if all goes well, he harvests between 650 and 800 kilos per quarter. "Some years are not so good,” he says, "but others have been much better and we've harvested a ton.”