Fastidious buyers gauge the chickpea puff

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Chickpea puffing

The Indian snack market for puffed chickpeas offers great potential for Australian chickpea growers; however, Indian buyers are fastidious about quality. Chickpea quality is determined by many factors, including cooking time and puffing performance.
The puffing process involves subjecting the raw whole chickpea to high temperature for a short time without oil, leading to a crisp, porous product with a crunchy texture and a distinct appealing flavour.

Charles Sturt University PhD student Christina Chin is researching factors that affect the cooking time and puffing quality of Australian desi chickpeas. Her GRDC-funded research, in partnership with the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (DPI), is examining the way in which factors including variety, growing location and farming practices influence the puffing quality of chickpeas.

It is known that different genotypes (varieties) puff better than others and that some genotypes have different cooking times based on where they were grown.

Image of puffed chickpea under microscope
Image of raw chickpea under microscope

Scanning election microscope photographs shows the puffed chickpea (top) has a porous, beehive-like matrix made up of cavities of different sizes and separated by a thin wall. This phenomenon is not observed in raw (bottom) or poorly puffed chickpeas.

PHOTOS: CSU

Other varieties have a consistent cooking time regardless of growing location, meaning both variety and location can be important for supplying markets with chickpeas that require a constant cooking time.

A NSW DPI agronomy trial at Tamworth looking at the effects of different rates of phosphorus fertiliser was used in the cooking analysis of the resulting dhal. Dr Jenny Wood, from NSW DPI, showed that PBA HatTrick dhal had a shorter cooking time than Kyabra. In addition, Kyabra dhal from the plots where higher rates of phosphorus were applied cooked more quickly than dhal from the plots where lower rates of phosphorus were applied.

Ms Chin examined the phosphorus content of this dhal and discovered that the phosphorus content of dhal was higher in PBA HatTrick at all phosphorus rates compared with Kyabra, suggesting that PBA HatTrick was more efficient at phosphorus uptake and accumulation in seeds. These findings have led researchers to conclude that there is a relationship between phosphorus content and cooking times of chickpea dhal.

The third area of Ms Chin’s research concerns the variation in puffing performance of different Australian chickpea genotypes.

The capacity of a chickpea to puff successfully is the result of differences in the microstructure of the chickpea.

In a poorly puffing chickpea line, the starch granules in the raw seed are poorly defined under magnification, leading researchers to believe they may have formed starch/protein complexes. After puffing, the seed surface appears wrinkled.

In a high-performing puffing chickpea variety such as Kyabra, the starch granules can be clearly observed. After puffing, the surface shows a porous, beehive-like matrix made up of many cavities and separated by thin cell walls.

Ms Chin hopes that by better understanding the role that structural and chemical factors play in chickpea quality, chickpea breeding can be enhanced to allow the Australian pulse industry to increase its share of this important global market.

How chickpea quality is defined

Chickpea quality can be categorised in several ways:

  • sensory (taste, aroma, texture and visual grading such as size and colour);
  • processing parameters such as dehulling and milling, cooking time, pasting, baking or puffing; and
  • health (micronutrients, macronutrients).

Boiling, frying and puffing are common methods of preparing chickpeas in Indian cuisine. Each segment of preparation may have different quality parameters.

A lengthy cooking time is inconvenient, uses more energy in food preparation and reduces the nutritional quality of pulses. Cooking time is one of the key parameters used in the evaluation of dhal.

More information:

Christina Chin,
0413 997 981,
cchin@csu.edu.au;

Dr Jenny Wood,
02 6763 1157,
jenny.wood@dpi.nsw.gov.au

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GRDC Project Code DAN00139

Region National, Overseas, South