Prepare your pita for the ultimate felafel

Hebrew University develops more nutritious chickpeas adapted to limited rainfall.

Moshiko felafel 521 (photo credit: Courtesy Moshiko felafel)
Moshiko felafel 521
(photo credit: Courtesy Moshiko felafel)
There is almost no food more Israeli than felafel, and soon the fried balls of chickpea paste may get an upgrade, thanks to developments from Hebrew University.
Yissum, the university’s research and development company, has introduced new chickpea varieties that retain high nutritional values while showing improved synchronization between flowering and the rainy season, thereby increasing yield.
The new varieties were developed by Prof. Shahal Abbo at the Robert H. Smith Institute of Plant Sciences and Genetics in Agriculture at the university’s Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment.
The chickpea ranks as second most common in the world’s legumes market.
The majority of the crop is cultivated in India, where it is an important staple diet component that supplies starch and protein to the predominantly vegetarian Indian population. The chickpea – which is also very popular among vegetarians in Western countries – contains lutein, an important antioxidant whose intake is associated with lower risk of age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness in the elderly.
Abbo developed the new chickpea varieties using non-GMO [genetically modified organism] breeding technologies.
They are characterized by larger seeds, high lutein content and moderate tolerance to fungal infection. Chickpea is not only a staple diet component in large areas of the globe, but also an important health food in Western countries and its consumption is rising steadily.
The new varieties offer the university a unique business opportunity and may promote marketing in industrialized nations, said Yissum CEO Yaacov Michlin.
“Yissum is now looking for partners for further development and commercialization of this invention,” concluded Michlin.
Chickpea production has increased over the past 30 years from 6.6 million metric tons to over 10 million metric tons, and although most of the crop is grown in India for domestic use, it is also an important crop, both domestic and for export, in several countries, including the United States and Australia.