The plant grows to 20–50 cm (8–20 in) high and has small, feathery leaves on either side of the stem. Chickpeas are a type of pulse, with one seedpod containing two or three peas. It has white flowers with blue, violet, or pink veins.
Several varieties of chickpea are cultivated throughout the world. Desi chana closely resembles both seeds found on archaeological sites and the wild plant ancestor of domesticated chickpeas, Cicer reticulatum, which only grows in southeast Turkey, where chickpeas are believed to have originated.
Desi chana has small, darker seeds and a rough coat. They are grown mostly in Pakistan, India and other parts of the South Asia, as well as in Ethiopia, Mexico, and Iran. Desi means ‘country’ or ‘local’ in Hindustani; its other names include kala chana (“black chickpea” in both Hindi and Urdu) or chholaa boot. Desi chana can be black, green or speckled. This variety is hulled and split to make chana dal.