Cicer arietinum Linn. Leguminosae. Chick-Pea. Egyptian Pea.
Europe, Orient and the East Indies. This plant is represented as growing wild in the Caucasus, in Greece and elsewhere; it is also found escaped from cultivation in the fields of middle Europe. The Jews, Greeks and Egyptians cultivated it in ancient times. It is extensively cultivated at the present time in the south of Europe, in the Levant, in Egypt as far as Abyssinia and in India. The seeds vary in size and color in the different varieties. In Paris, they are much used for soups. In India, they are ground into a meal and either eaten in puddings or made into cakes. They are also toasted or parched and made into a sort of comfit. In India, says Wight: "The leaves of the plant secrete an acid which the natives collect by spreading a cloth over night on the plant and wringing out the dew in the morning. They then use it as vinegar or for forming a cooling drink." In 1854, the seed was distributed from the United States Patent Office.
The shape of the unripe seed, which singularly resembles a ram's head, may account for its being regarded as unclean by the Egyptians of the time of Herodotus. It was in common use in ancient Rome and varieties are mentioned by Columella and Pliny, the latter naming the white and black, the Dove of Venus pea, and many kinds differing from each other in size. Albertus Magnus, in the thirteenth century, mentions the red, the white and the black sorts, and this mention of colors is continued by the herbalists of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. The white chick-pea is the sort now generally grown in France, where the dried seeds find large use in soups. The red variety is now extensively grown in eastern countries, and the black sort is described as more curious than useful.