Chana widely known as the chickpea is a pulse- an edible seed obtained from inside the pods of certain legume plants- from the ‘Leguminosae’ family. Its scientific name is ‘Cicer arietinum’ and has many varieties and different names such as Bengal gram, Egyptian pea and garbanzo.
The two main varieties of chana are desi and Kabuli. And among them, desi chana is more popular and widely used than Kabuli chana. Desi chana is smaller in size, darker in colour and has a rough outer skin while the Kabuli chana is bigger, lighter in colour and has a smoother coat. The word ‘chana’ commonly means the desi variety, particularly known as the Bengal gram or kala chana extensively grown and used mainly in India, Bangladesh, Iran, Pakistan, and Mexico.
Chana is supposed to have originated in the Eastern Mediterranean regions like Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Jordan. And based on certain archaeological evidence it is in the regular diet for more than 9500 years.
Today, chana is used worldwide to make various dishes and food items such as parathas,vadas, dals, pancakes, etc. Moreover, the gram flour or besan- the flour made by powdering the chana (desi chana)- is used to make many different food items, especially snacks and bakery items, and also for certain cosmetic purposes.
Chana can be cultivated on a wide variety of soils like sandy loam soils and black cotton soils. However, clay loam and sandy loam soils rich in organic matter and with good fertility and sufficient internal drainage are ideal for the plant which is a rabi crop and usually sown from October to November.
Normally, the plants grow up to 18 inches in height and take around 3-4 months to be ready for harvest by February and March.
Chana is high in nutrients as it contains a great amount of protein, carbohydrates and fiber. It is considered as the best protein source for vegetarians as just 30 grams of it contain around 4 grams of protein- a higher protein concentration compared to any other vegetarian food.
Chana also contains fat, iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, zinc, selenium, folate, niacin, thiamin, and vitamins B6, C, E and K which are beneficial to promote muscle growth, boost the immune system and improve skin, hair and nail health. Chana is also purported to control blood sugar levels, promote brain health, help lose weight, improve digestion and hemoglobin levels, and maintain cholesterol levels, and heart and eye health.
India is the largest producer of chana in the world and accounts for more than 65% of the total global production. Other major producers are Australia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Turkey, Ethiopia, Iran and Mexico. India is also the largest exporter and importer of chana and other main exporters are Australia, Turkey, Mexico and Russia, while Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey and UAE are the other major importers in the world.
In India, the top producer of chana is Madhya Pradesh, followed by Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
Some of the major trading markets of chana in India:
Madhya Pradesh (Vidisha, Indore, Bhopal)
Rajasthan (Jodhpur, Jaipur, Hanumangarh, Kota)
Maharashtra (Mumbai, Latur, Akola, Jalgaon)
Andhra Pradesh (Vijayawada, Visakhapatnam, Nellore)
Names of chana in different Indian languages: