We've made things awfully confusing, haven't we? Our bags are labelled as garbanzo beans but we often call out chickpeas in recipes. Funny, and particular. We happen to love the name 'Garbanzo'. It's fun, punchy, feels elevated. And then chickpeas somehow feel more natural when talking about cooking.
While we've made a conscious decision to honor both names, we did want to get to the bottom of the question: Are chickpeas and garbanzo beans the same?
The short answer is: YES!
But tracing the road that lead from one name to the next is a bit more windy, and interesting.
Another linguistic quirk is that chickpeas are beans, not peas. Furthermore the Spanish word garbanzo doesn't have Latin or Greek roots, but is rather indigenous in origin. In Arabic, the word for chickpea is hummus. So the chickpea dip that we call hummus, should technically be called hummus with tahini or something like that. See...not a straight road.
In any event, the official word for chickpea in Latin is Cicer Arietinum. As with many beans, it's hard to peg down exactly where chickpeas first originated. The oldest record is believed to trace back to Turkey and Syria some 10,000 years ago - where agricultural practices first began. The earliest known chickpeas were quite tiny and larger forms were later found in Israel and Jordan during the Bronze Age. Chickpeas ultimately made their way to Greece and France and other parts of Europe. They crossed the Channel to England. They travelled to Africa and India. These beans certainly got around.
Quite a few cultures utilized the name Cicer Arietinum early on. Cicero, the famous orator grew up in a family of chickpea farmers. Hence his name. It was the French who adapted the name Cicer to "pois chiche" and then when the English dubbed them "Chiche Pease", which eventually became Chick Peas.
So what about Garbanzo? How does that fit in? Essentially, it doesn't - other than this same little bean was loved far and wide and Spain was no exception. Garbanzo is a Spanish word that is a derivative of the Basque term "garbantzu" which means "dry seed." "Garau" means "seed" and "antzu" means "dry." Given the cultural history here there's probably some complexity to unfold, but we'll just leave it at that.
Whatever the road, we now have two worldly names for one fabulous bean. Chickpeas are one of the most versatile legumes and added to so many of our favorite recipes. Try them in hummus, curries, with tray bakes...we often just throw them into salads or roast them as snacks. This is one bean that you could find ways to eat every day.