What Are Pigeon Peas: Information For Growing Pigeon Pea Seeds
By Susan Patterson, Master Gardener
Whether you grow the plant to eat or for other reasons, pigeon pea seed growing offers unique flavor and interest to the landscape. There is very little care involved and are easy to grow. Learn more here.
Basic Tips for Delicious Peas
- Don’t boil! Just don’t do it. I know the package tells you to. But don’t. Trust me.
- Add a little sugar to the peas. It’s ok, it won’t taste weird and it will bring out the natural sweet flavor.
- Don’t add salt until ready to serve. Salting them too early can dehydrate them and they (obviously) won’t be as sweet. Salt them after they have cooked and you can salt to taste.
How to Plant Pigeon Pea
Pigeon pea (Cajanus cajon) is a perennial plant that extends up to 10 feet at maturity. The plant has edible beans that are popular in the West Indies. Pigeon pea grows well in most climates and requires very little maintenance in moist, nutrient-rich soil. The pigeon pea has an average life span of five years and grows best in US Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 to 15. Planting should take place in late spring, after the last frost or early summer.
Dig a hole 6 to 8 inches deep. The soil can be of any variety, ranging from sandy to clay, as long as the pH level is between 5.0 to 7.0. For best results, dig the hole in an area that has access to full or partial sunlight.
Plant one pigeon pea seed into the hole. Cover the seed with soil. Avoid putting too much soil on top of the seed use just enough to conceal the seed.
Plant the rest of your pigeon pea seeds in individual shallow holes, leaving at least 6 inches between each hole. If planting more than one row, space each row at least 35 centimeters apart.
Add an all-purpose fertilizer on top of each planting. The fertilizer must have balanced amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
Water each planting slowly and deeply on the first day of planting.
Water once per week after the first day to keep the soil moist. Fertilize the plantings once per month. On average, it takes two to three weeks for your seeds to germinate.
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Many Ways of Eating Pigeon Peas
Most commonly, the skin less and split pea’s variety is used. With a greenish brown colour with the skin on it and a yellow colour without the skin, it has to be soaked in water for about ten minutes before you wish to cook it. It generally takes a bit longer than the other dals to cook. While you may roast it nicely, but in India a pressure cooker is the magic whistle that cooks the dal in ten minutes flat.
Add it to vegetables as dried peas. The children love the ground flour variety as well. A perfect combination with cereals can be made for a balanced diet fulfilling all the nutritious requirements of the body. Add it to the salads and increase the crunch with the salad leaves.
One of the most common dishes of the south Indian Cuisine, the mouth- watering Sambhar is also made of Arhar. Another thing that you need to be trying is the Gujrati dal to become a fan of this dish!
Pigeon Pea In Permaculture Designs
Here are a few ways I have used pigeon peas:
- A hedge or windbreak. Plant them in a row, about one to two feet apart. Giving the hedge a regular haircut yields lots of mulch for nearby plants. At harvest time you have a lot of pigeon peas in one place, easy to gather. (I don't usually worry about harvesting all the other bushes on my property.)
- Plant them around young fruit trees. I keep trimming them so they are never higher than the tree. That way they provide shelter for the tree, but they don't shade it. The trimmings I throw under the tree as mulch and of course the nitrogen from the root nodules feeds the tree.
As the tree gets older and taller the trimming is not necessary anymore. The pigeon peas will keep growing, self seeding, dying and feeding the tree on their own. I stay out of it, unless I'm hungry and I have run out of pigeon peas elsewhere. I use pigeon pea as a cover crop during the wet season. Our torrential monsoon rains leach everything out of the soil, so the more nutrients are tied up in plant matter the better. For that I just throw the seed around wherever there is unused space (for example dry season vegetable beds).
When the rains have finished the pigeon peas are cut and used as mulch or on the compost. The roots stay in the ground and release nitrogen for use by the dry season vegetables. A living trellis. Some of the pigeon peas I only prune right back and then plant a tomato bush underneath (make sure you plant them on the sunny side).
I hate trellising tomatoes. It's work. Especially removing a dead tomato from a trellis is annoying and needless work. I let the tomatoes climb into the pigeon peas and when the tomatoes are finished I cut both back to the ground and throw them on the compost together. (Or in the chicken pen. Or under a nearby fruit tree). Much easier!
Find more permaculture plants that make life easier.