Submitted to: Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/25/2003
Publication Date: 7/1/2003
Citation: Ibrikci,H., Knewtson,S., Grusak,M.A. 2003. Chickpea leaves as a vegetable green for humans: evaluation of mineral composition. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 83(9):945-950.
Interpretive Summary: Leaves of the chickpea plant are eaten as a cooked vegetable green by people in some developing countries; however, the nutritional value of this food source has not been fully explored. The chickpea seed is quite commonly consumed in most parts of the world, and is known to be nutritious and fiber-rich. Because the leaves also are edible, and could provide essential dietary nutrients to humans, we performed a study evaluating 19 different types of chickpea to determine the levels of mineral nutrients in young leaves of this crop plant. We wanted to evaluate the mineral composition of the leaves at two different points as the plants developed, prior to flowering. Then, we compared our findings for mineral levels in the chickpea leaves to those previously reported for commonly eaten leafy vegetables - specifically, spinach and cabbage. We found that chickpea leaves contain much higher concentrations of a number of important minerals, relative to either spinach or cabbage. These findings demonstrate that chickpea leaves show great promise as a dietary source of several human essential minerals, especially for populations where malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies are prevalent. Consumption of chickpea leaves should be promoted in areas where chickpea is produced as a staple grain.
Technical Abstract: Chickpea (Cicer arietinum) is generally consumed as a seed food, being a good source of protein and other essential human nutrients. However, young chickpea leaves also are eaten as a cooked vegetable green in certain parts of the world, and could be a useful source of dietary nutrients, especially in malnourished populations. Because little information is available on the mineral content of this food, we characterized leaf mineral concentrations in 19 diverse accessions of chickpea. Both desi and kabuli chickpea types were studied. All plants were greenhouse-grown and were fertilized daily with a complete mineral solution. Young, fully expanded leaves (fourth through seventh nodes from the apex) were harvested at both early and late vegetative stages. Leaves were dried, ashed, and analyzed for mineral concentrations. Macronutrient minerals (Ca, Mg, K, P) varied from 1.3-fold to 1.8-fold and micronutrient minerals (Fe, Zn, Mn, Cu, B, Ni) varied from 1.5-fold to 2.4-fold across all accessions. No major differences were observed in leaf mineral concentrations between the kabuli and desi types; mineral concentrations were generally lower in leaves collected at the later harvest date. Microscopic analyses demonstrated that all accessions contained crystal inclusions, suggestive of calcium oxalate crystals. Overall, chickpea leaves were found to be a good source of several minerals required by humans, and for most minerals, their levels significantly exceeded those previously reported for spinach and cabbage.