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Pigeon Peas

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Pigeon pea Scientific classification Kingdom: Plantae Division: Magnoliophyta Class: Magnoliopsida Order: Fabales Family: Fabaceae Genus: Cajanus Species: C. cajan Binomial name Cajanus cajan (L.) Millsp.

The pigeon pea, also known as the Congo pea, Gungo pea (in Jamaica), Gunga pea, or no-eye pea (Cajanus cajan, synonyms Cajanus indicus Spreng. (Valder 1895) and Cytisus cajan (Crawfurd 1852)) is a perennial member of the family Fabaceae.



The cultivation of the pigeon pea goes back at least 3000 years. The centre of origin is most likely Asia, from where it travelled to East Africa and by means of the slave trade to the American continent. Today pigeon peas are widely cultivated in all tropical and semi-tropical regions of both the Old and the New World. Pigeon peas can be of a perennial varieity, in which the crop can last 3–5 years (although the seed yield drops considerably after the first two years), or an annual varieity more suitable for grain production.

Pigeon pea is a perennial which can grow into a small tree Seeds of the pigeon pea

Pigeon pea is an important grain legume crop of rainfed agriculture in the semi-arid tropics. The Indian subcontinent, Eastern Africa and Central America, in that order, are the world's three main pigeon pea producing regions. Pigeon pea is cultivated in more than 25 tropical and sub-tropical countries, either as a sole crop or intermixed with such cereals as sorghum (Sorchum bicolor), pearl millet (Pennisetium glaucum), or maize (Zea mays), or with legumes, e.g. peanut (Arachis hypogaea). Being a legume, pigeon pea enriches soil through symbiotic nitrogen fixation.

The crop is cultivated on marginal land by resource-poor farmers, who commonly grow traditional medium and long duration (5–11 months) landraces. Short duration pigeon peas (3–4 months) suitable for multiple cropping have recently been developed. Traditionally, the use of such input as fertilizers, weeding, irrigation, and pesticides are minimal, so present yield levels are low (average = 700 kg/hac). Greater attention is now being given to managing the crop because it is in high demand at remunerative prices.

Pigeon peas are very drought resistant and can be grown in areas with less than 650 mm annual rainfall.

World production of pigeon peas is estimated at 46,000 km2. About 82% of this is grown in India. These days it is the most essential ingredient of animal feed used in West Africa, most especially in Nigeria where it is also grown.


Pigeon peas from Trinidad and Tobago

Pigeon peas are both a food crop (dried peas, flour, or green vegetable peas) and a forage/cover crop. They contain high levels of protein and the important amino acids methionine, lysine, and tryptophan.[1]. In combination with cereals, pigeon peas make a well-balanced human food. The dried peas may be sprouted briefly, then cooked, for a flavor different from the green or dried peas. Sprouting also enhances the digestibility of dried pigeon peas via the reduction of indigestible sugars that would otherwise remain in the cooked dried peas.[2]

In India, split pigeon peas (toor dal) are one of the most popular pulses, being an important source of protein in a mostly vegetarian diet. In regions where it grows, fresh young pods are eaten as vegetable in dishes such as sambhar.

In Ethiopia, not only the pods but the young shoots and leaves are cooked and eaten.[3]

In some places, such as the Dominican Republic and Hawaii, pigeon peas are grown for canning. On the Caribbean Island of Puerto Rico, rice and green pigeon peas (called ``gandules`` or ``gandures``) are together a traditional food, served as a representative Puerto Rican cuisine in many food festivals around the world. For example, it garnered great reviews in The Taste of Chicago 2007, an annual food festival.

In Thailand, pigeon peas are grown as a host for scale insects which produce lac.

Pigeon peas are in some areas an important crop for green manure. They can after incorporation provide up to 40 kg nitrogen per hectare. The woody stems of pigeon peas can also be used as firewood, fencing and thatch.

Medicinal Uses

[citation needed]

It is useful in the treatment of internal organ swelling. Some herbal practitioners/researchers are of the opinion that it diminishes the swelling of internal organs like stomach, liver, intestines etc. In case of wound or cancer of these organs it is helpful in reducing them. Its recommended usage is: Green leaves of Pigeon peas around 10 grams along with 7 black peppers should be finely ground and mixed in water and then taken as a drink. Green leaves of Pigeon peas ground in water and added to half boiled water should be applied externally on the affected body part. Pigeon peas should be cooked in water (as dal, an Indian dish) and its water should be given to the patient.

– 'Dehati Mualij' , a Hamdard Publication, New Delhi, India

A new usage for treatment of osteonecrosis of the femural head.[4]


Phytophthora cajani

See also

Multilingual list of Indian Vegetables, spices & grains


^ ``Nutrition Facts and Analysis for Pigeon peas (red gram), mature seeds, raw`` ^ ``Effect of Sprouting on invitro digestibility of some locally consumed leguminous seeds``. Journal of Applied Sciences and Environmental Management. Vol. 10, Num. 3, 2006, pp. 55-58 ^ Zemede Asfaw, ``Conservation and use of traditional vegetables in Ethiopia``, Proceedings of the IPGRI International Workshop on Genetic Resources of Traditional Vegetables in Africa (Nairobi, 29-31 August 1995) ^

External links

Crop Wild Relatives Gap Analysis Portal reliable information source on where and what to conserve ex-situ, regarding Cajanus genepool