Wilhelm and Gabi Bloecker, with their eldest son Christian grow chickpeas on their 1,100-hectare property in the far north of Western Australia, just outside Kununurra, in the Ord River Irrigation Area.
It’s a mixed horticulture and broad-acre enterprise, which includes rockmelons, honeydew melons and pumpkins, alongside chickpeas, borlotti beans and chia. The Bloeckers grows two kabuli chickpea varieties — Macarena and Kimberley Large — producing the premium large white chickpeas available in Australia.
“The chickpeas are grown on raised beds under flood irrigation on the heavy black Kununurra clay,” Christian explains. After the wet season finishes in March, the ground is cultivated and fertilised. The chickpeas are then planted in mid to late April.
“After seven to 10 days the chickpeas germinate. They’re then watered approximately every 14 days, depending on the daily crop water use. At maturity, the chickpea plants are swathed, left to dry for five to seven days, and harvested with a header using a pickup front.”
After harvest (which is now), the chickpeas are sorted according to size and colour at the local growers co-operative, before being packaged into 25-kilogram bags. These bags are placed on pallets that are then trucked down to wholesalers, predominantly in Melbourne and Sydney.
Try this tasty ‘Chickpea Salad’, courtesy of Gabi Bloecker.
To prepare chickpeas, soak them in water overnight ensuring that they are fully submerged. The following day, place two cups of chickpeas, six cups of water and three teaspoons of chicken stock into a large pot and cook for 40 minutes. Drain the chickpeas are they ready to use.
Combine balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sugar, salt and pepper to make the dressing. Pour over the chickpeas and set aside for 30 minutes. Add the remainder of ingredients to the chickpeas and lightly fold together. Serve garnished with chopped parsley.
Tips from the author
It’s also good to note that chickpeas are safe to freeze. You can prepare them in large batches so that you always have some ready to use.