Chef Joe Miller of Joe's restaurant in Venice used to sprinkle green garbanzos, the fresh version of dried chickpeas, sparingly over his dishes. “Garbanzos can get so expensive at the farmers market because farmers often use them more like black-eyed peas — as ground cover and fertilizer for their other crops,” says Miller (garbanzos naturally add nitrogen back to the soil). “That, and the growing season is so short, it wasn't really practical to use them much before.”

Then Bob Rinker walked into Joe's toting a bag of Califresh garbanzos. “Have you met him?” asks Miller, referring to the Califresh Business Development Manager's rather infectious enthusiasm for the humble pea, which has long been a popular snack in Mexico.

Read more about green garbanzos and get Jill Davie's garbanzo-guacamole recipe after the jump.

Based in Sanger, just east of Fresno, Califresh contracts with California farmers from the summer through early fall and farms the peas in Mexico during the off-season. The company's bulk buying power and minimal processing (they are sold freshly shelled and frozen to restaurants; unshelled but removed from the vine in grocery stores) has made using them with abandon reality for restaurant chefs and home cooks. Rinker is on the front line, telling anyone in his path how fantastic the vegetables are sauteed in their pods and sprinkled with sea salt. “It's a learning curve,” he says of trying to convince the general public to taste the edamame-like peas.

They're great sautéed, but we're partial to the minty-green hue and fresh vegetal flavor they lend to everyday dips like hummus (just blanch the beans for a few minutes, then substitute the fresh beans for dried in your favorite hummus recipe) or in this green garbanzo-spiked guacamole from chef Jill Davie of Venice Beach Wines. Full disclosure: Davie, the former Josie sous chef and a Next Iron Chef contestant, is a spokesperson for Califresh… no Food Network deal, but hey, she's got plenty of fresh garbanzos.

Credit: Califresh

Credit: Califresh

Green garbanzo-guacamole dip

Note: Adapted from Chef Jill Davie for Califresh. You can find bags of fresh garbanzos in the produce aisle at specialty markets, Ralph's and Von's for about $3 a bag.

2 cups fresh green (shelled) garbanzos

1 ripe avocado, peeled and pitted

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

½ cup minced white onion

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

Juice of 1 lime, more to taste

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1. In a medium pot, cover the garbanzos with water and bring to a boil. Cook for about three minutes, until just tender, then drain and rinse in cold water.

2. In a food processor, combine the garbanzos, avocado, lime juice and salt. Puree until smooth. Place the guacamole in a bowl and stir in the cilantro, onion and jalapeno. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately. Serve with tortilla chips.

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