Chickpeas

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Cicer arietinum is an ancient cultivar thoroughly documented as far back as 6000 B.C. in Middle Eastern archeological sites and much cherished in ancient Greece and Rome. Virgil mentioned it in his salad poem Moretum. Marcus Tullius Cicero, the greatest Latin prose stylist and a leading politician of the late Republic (106–43 B.C.), is nicknamed after the chickpea.* The Latin name survives in Italian ceci and in chickpea. The Spanish name garbanzo derives from the Greek erebinthos (ἐρέβɩυθος), mentioned in The Iliad 13.589. Hummus is the Arabic.

*Roman names came in three parts. In order, they were the praenomen, equivalent to our first name; the nomen, or family name; and the cognomen, the equivalent of a nickname: Publius Clodius Pulcher (beautiful), a decadent public figure; Publius Ovidius Naso (nose), the poet Ovid; Cnaeus Pompeius Strabo (squinty), the geographer.

†“Just as dark-fleshed beans and chickpeas leap off the threshing floor sped by shrill wind and a strong winnower, so bitter arrows ricochet off the breastplate of noble Menelaus and fly far off.”

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