Trying to harvest high quality chickpeas in a humid climate.

We’ve been growing Black Kabouli chickpeas at Tourne-Sol for a few years.

We’ve been quite successful getting plants covered in pods with 2 chickpeas per pod.

But when it comes to harvesting and threshing these chickpeas. I’ve been pretty frustrated!

Normally, we wait until the pods on leguminous seed crops (such as beans or peas) are about 3/4 mature & dry. Then we pull the whole plant and let them finish drying in the greenhouse protected from any potential rain. Then we thresh the fully dry plants and voil! We’ve got bins of nice peas and beans.

This just hasn’t worked with chickpeas.

Let me tell you why it hasn’t worked and what we’re trying differently this year.

The chickpea problem

The pods on chickpea plants mature over a number of weeks. This means that on the same plants, I’ll find fully dry pods with mature chickpeas and also green pods that have barely begun to form a chickpea. And a number of pods in the middle.

Look at these next two pictures to see what I’m talking about!

In the past when I’ve waited for most of the pods to mature before pulling whole plants, this meant leaving dry pods out in the rain for many weeks while the rest the plants mature.

The plants get rained on many times.

With all this extra moisture, the chickpea seeds in the most mature pods start to get mouldy.

I do not like this mould.

Not one bit.

How I hope we can solve the chickpea problem

I wonder whether we can pull chickpea plants earlier – when about 1/3 of the pods are mature with dry seed, 1/3 of the plants have green pods with big fat maturing seed, and 1/3 of the plants have green pods with itty bitty little seeds just starting to swell.

We would then spread the chickpea plants in the greenhouse to keep maturing.

For this to work, the still maturing seeds would need to finish ripening on the pulled plants in the greenhouse.

Here’s a picture of some the ripening pods I’m hoping will ripen after pulling up the whole plants. They are still really green inside.

Let’s test that hypothesis

We have about 300 Black Kabouli chickpea plants in the field.

Last week, we harvested some of them in 3 different ways to see what happens.

  • We harvested 30 whole plants that were 1/3 dry, 1/3 maturing, 1/3 green.
  • We harvested the most mature branches of another 30 plants trying to leave the greenest branches behind.
  • We harvested the few plants that seemed to be 3/4 dry from the rest of the section.

We left 200 plants in the field.

We brought each of our 3 trials in to the greenhouse and spread them on 3 separate tarps. Each tarp was clearly labelled with the harvest trial.

Next week, we’ll harvest another 100 whole plants or so.

The following week, we’ll harvest the remaining plants.

This will leave us with 5 lots in the greenhouse.

Once the plants have finished drying, we will process each lot separately using the following steps

  • visually inspect the chickpeas in the pods to see whether the green pods did mature
  • thresh and clean the whole lot
  • visually inspect the cleaned lot to see if we’ve managed to only extract mature seed and whether any seed is mouldy
  • perform a germination test on the lot

We will then be able to determine which harvest method and period is best.

I hope we determine that we can simply pull the plants with 1/3 dry, 1/3 maturing and 1/3 green. It would be easiest for us.

I’ll keep you posted!

Do you have any tricks to get great quality chickpea seeds in a humid climate?

2 thoughts on “Trying to harvest high quality chickpeas in a humid climate.

  1. Hi Dan,
    Very interesting post!

    I have been a Black Kabouli enthusiast gardener for some years now, and have been trying to maintain a line that I offer in the Seed of Diversity member’s catalogue. This white mould is a recurring problem, years after years. I decided 4 years ago that I would manually select against it, manually. So my criteria is to keep plants with absolutely no mould chick peas, and with a good amount of peas in it ( > 25). However, I am not sure what is “a good amount” (How much peas do you usually expect from a plant? What distance between plant do you use, this may have an impact. Also I am in zone 4a).

    To be honest, I don’t know if my selection gave any good results (I keep some stats, but maybe the weather is the only factor changing my numbers…). So maybe next year I will try an envelope of Tourne-Sol, and do a trial to compare my line, side by side, to see if it is better… or worst 😉


    1. Hi Louis-Félix,

      I am excited to hear about your selection work.

      I would love to hear the results of a comparative trial.

      I track our yield by weight rather than by seed count. But here’s a little math to determine how many seeds we get per plant.

      Our yield 50-60g per bedfoot.

      We plant our rows 24 ” apart and in the row we plant 2 seeds every 12 inches. That is 4 seeds per bedft.

      This comes to 12g to 15g per plant. We have 4 seeds per g. This is about 48 to 60 seeds per plant.

      This is more than the 25 seeds per plant you mention. But we are in zone 5a. With a bit extra growing season, we might be getting more pods to mature.

      Thanks for sharing your Black Kabouli experience!


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