Trader Joe’s Just Released a 27-Minute Podcast About … Hummus. Here’s What We Learned.
Grab some pita chips and a veggie platter: The latest episode of the Inside Trader Joe’s podcast came out earlier this week, and hosts Tara Miller and Matt Sloan spent the time chatting all about hummus. They brought on three guests to discuss the thousands-year-old, texturally rich dip for nearly 30 minutes. Clearly, there’s a lot to cover! And we were completely amazed by the historical twists, fun tidbits, and helpful tips they shared along the way. Let’s take a look!
1. January and February are the peak hummus-buying months.
While the grocer sells hummus year-round, the first two months of the year are when shoppers really load up their carts with those containers. As Matt says, “It’s so great to snack on while you’re watching football or the Westminster Dog Show.” He thinks a hummus board is going to be the new “it” appetizer set-up. And we’re totally … on board with that. (Get it?)
2. Whether we call its main ingredient “chickpeas” or “garbanzo beans” or “garbs,” depends on where we live.
“I grew up in New England and we always called them chickpeas,” explains Tara. “And then when I moved to California, everybody called them garbanzo beans.” Chickpea comes from the Latin word cicer, referring to the plant family of legumes, Fabaceae, while garbanzo bean is a popular Spanish-derived name. We could also call them “garbs” like the farmers in the Pacific Northwest who work with Sam, an East Coast supplier, do.
3. But, technically, we use the term “hummus” fairly loosely.
While traditional hummus is primarily made of garbanzo beans mixed with a few other ingredients (mainly tahini, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and other seasoning spices), it is possible to see “a lot of ‘hummus’ on store shelves that is made with a different type of bean, whether it be black beans, cannellini beans, any type of bean,” says Katie, a West Coast supplier. We won’t see these “hummus” (air quotes by Katie) at our TJ’s, though.
Related: How To Make Hummus from Scratch
4. Hummus started getting popular in the U.S during the ’80s.
According to Sam, “The folks who started our company came to this country from Lebanon in the early ’80s and began delivering hummus to supermarkets all over New England.” He also credited TJ’s with helping to make it “an everyday household item in the U.S.”
5. A lot of Trader Joe’s hummus comes from Washington.
The beans are grown locally within different areas in the U.S. and then transferred to Washington, where one of the grocer’s suppliers is based. On a weekly basis, “we’re making about 85,000 pounds of Mediterranean hummus,” says Katie, which comes out to more than 4 million pounds. That’s the equivalent to 13 blue whales or 180 African elephants!
6. And Boston.
The East Coast supplier makes three varieties for the grocer, including two core items: Classic Organic and the Roasted Garlic. (This comes out to 8 million pounds!) They’ve also made Pumpkin Hummus and are “working on some things right now,” says Sam. They’re still top secret but he did say he thinks they’re pretty exciting.
7. Trader Joe’s sells fewer types of hummus than they did a year ago.
It’s not the supply chain (for once). The TJ’s crew let Christine, the deli category manager, know that there were too many different types of hummus in stores, so the grocer made the decision to cut back on the less popular flavors — by close to half. That’s why we don’t see Tabbouleh Hummus on shelves anymore. And it’s why we’re especially interested in the top-secret stuff Sam was talking about above.
8. Those “impossible to remove” seals exist for two very important reasons.
If you’ve ever asked yourself, a TJ’s crew member, or social media, “What’s up with these seals on the hummus tubs?” then you’re not alone. Tara’s seen this question all over on Instagram and Twitter. In fact, she says it could be the most-asked question about the store’s hummus. In short, it’s for quality and safety purposes, explains Katie: “This is something that does need to maintain quality throughout its shelf life.”
9. We should take our hummus out of the fridge well before serving it.
“When our grandmothers serve hummus to us,” says Sam, “it’s at room temperature to bring the flavors out.” He also suggests drizzling it with olive oil, adding a few chickpeas on top, and sprinkling it with paprika.
10. We can dress up store-bought hummus in under 5 minutes.
Matt also gives his hummus a quick zhuzh. He likes to take the hummus out of the tub and put it in a shallow bowl, make a little well and pour the olive oil — and maybe some za’atar — in the well before serving. He did that for a recent lunch he had with his dad, and his dad called it “fancy lunch.”
Related: 5 Easy Ways to Dress Up Store-Bought Hummus for a Party
What’s your favorite TJ’s hummus? Tell us in the comments!