Use of garbanzos as flour substitute

THE local production of garbanzos and its use as flour substitute and energy-rich food ingredient have been initiated by the Benguet State University (BSU) and may potentially substitute its100 percent importation mainly from Australia.

A one-hectare area in three different sites in Benguet is now being piloted for garbanzos (interchangeably called chickpea) production.

It is a first as of record in Philippine farming.  The sites are at the BSU campus in La Trinidad; Sagada, Mountain Province; and Bukod and Baguias.

“Chickpea usually comes to us from Australia for repacking into canned form.  For the first time, we’re doing field tests, and we’re trying to use it to substitute flour,” said BSU Supervising Research Specialist Dr. Ines Gonzales.

The Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) is funding the program at P1.7 million as part of an aim to support local production of imported food, according to BAR Director Nicomedes P. Eleazar.

“Chickpea is a nutritious ingredient for food.  It also a crop that has the potential to withstand extreme temperature from climate change, so we’re finding a way to grow it here for our own food security,” said Eleazar.

Yield in Benguet is initially seen at 800 kilos per hectare. At a canned form at P25 per 200 grams, revenue can reach P100,000 per hectare.

However, in an earlier field trial at Gumatdang, Itogon, potential yield could be at 2,000 kilos per hectare, according to experts.

Still, BSU has to go through a process of convincing farmers to plant the crop.

Fortunately, BSU has the track record for having been successful in influencing farmers to plant crops previously unknown to them.

BSU agriculturists pioneered in introducing to Baguio natives strawberry farming—now a known tourist attraction at the country’s summer capital.

“We’re working on acceptance of chickpea in our farmers.  We want to make known its advantage of being a legume that we use for special dishes like igado,” said Gonzales, also BSU-Northern Philippine Root Crops Research and Training Center  director.

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), donor of drought-tolerant garbanzos seeds, reported that potential area in Benguet for garbanzos totals to 10,000 hectares.

Garbanzos is an ingredient in sauced dishes like menu do.  It is also a crunchy snack and a sumptuous dessert, alone in syrup or with other sweets in halo halo. Other products are chickpea tea, chickpea cookies, and chickpea steamed cake.

For its use as wheat flour substitute, its value can be immense in reducing the country’s flour import.  BSU is now likewise using it as an ingredient for noodles, crackers, and other finger foods under a BAR and Department of Agriculture Agri Pinoy Project.

If it can take up even five percent of the $200 million yearly wheat import used for flour-making, it will have contributed some P400 million in local jobs and revenue generation.

It may not be completely ideal for cropping in highlands like Baguio, but it can be a good rotation crop recommended for planting during the dry cropping.

The tourists at Baguio and farmers themselves may be the initial market for the garbanzos.

The finished chickpea sweets in syrup, expected to be released soon after the harvest in April or May this year, will be bottled, rather than.  It will be easier to bottle it since canning requires a more expensive processing equipment.

For food safety, the bottled products will go through sterilization which is a usual process for BSU’s other bottled goods like strawberry jams.  Even with bottling, mass production at BSU is possible.  However, BSU has yet to conduct a feasibility study on a viable mass bottling process.

In order to ensure long term viability of the farm production, Gonzales said what BSU really needs are greenhouses that will protect the garbanzos seeds while these are at the germination stage.  Greenhouses are effective in controlling not only temperature but wind impact on crops.

Product Development

Once farm production is established, numerous products can be developed from garbanzos.

It is turned into protein-rich chickpea veggie burgers fit for vegetarians that want a vegetable substitute for their meat.  The peas are mashed and mixed with other ingredients like onion, pepper, and carrots.

Nutrition content

Garbanzos are a source of zinc, folate and protein. It is high in dietary fiber, making it a good source of  carbohydrates ideal for diabetics.  It is said to help lower cholesterol in the bloodstream

It is low in fat and any fat is polyunsaturated.

For each 100 grams of the small variety of boiled garbanzos, there are 2.6 grams of fat (of which only 0.27 grams is saturated) and7.6 grams of dietary fiber and 8.9 grams of protein.  Its dietary calcium is placed at 49 to 53 micrograms (mg) per 100 grams (g)

According to ICRISAT which is the source of the seeds of BSU, garbanzos seeds have, on the average, 23 percent protein, 64 percent total carbohydrates (47 percent starch, 6 percent soluble sugar), 5 percent fat, 6 percent crude fiber and three percent ash.

Mineral content is high with phosphorus (340 mg per 100 g), magnesium (140 mg per 100g), iron (7 mg/100 g), and zinc (3 mg per100 g).

Potential area expansion

The Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD) earlier also conducted the “Introduction and promotion of chickpea in the highlands of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).”

Its release to the Baguio market is hoped to take off this time as production is already being established.

“Trials conducted during the past two years have given very encouraging results and suggest that chickpea has a potential for cultivation in highlands of the Philippines,” said Dr. Myer Mula nd PM Gaur, ICRISAT scientists.

“Marketing should not be a problem as chickpea is already consumed in the Philippines and present demand is being met through import. The post-harvest processing facilities available at BSU can be used for processing and value addition of chickpea,” they said.

When it proves successful, BSU may expand garbanzos production in other Northern Luzon provinces.

Extensive training

Among those that have gone through training on garbanzos are representatives from The Highland Agriculture and Resources Research and Development Consortium, Abra School of Integrated Science and Technology, Apayao State College, Kalinga Apayao State College.

Researchers are trying on field two varieties– the desi, suitable in warm countries in South Asia and East Africa, and kabuli, a large-seeded type that is grown in the temperate regions of West Africa.  The Kabuli is said to have increasing consumption globally.

ICRISAT is also developing pest-resistant garbanzos varieties that can grow in marginalized land.

Over the long term, garbanzos may also be developed as a biofuel crop like corn or sweet sorghum.

Aside from Australia,  other countries that produce garbanzos are India, Pakistan, Turkey, Australia, Iran, Myanmar, Canada, Ethiopia, Mexico and Iraq.

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