Practically Perfect in Every Way- The Mighty Pigeon Pea and its Value for the Home Gardener
The pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan) is a hardy and vigorous multi-use crop that has been grown for thousands of years.
Believed to have originated in
India, it is now utilized around the world. Hungry for some Gandule Rice (Puerto Rican)? How about some Dhal (India)? Fio-Fio (South-East Africa)? Gungo Peas (Jamaica)? Kardis (Philippines)? These are just a few of the hundreds of names for the pigeon pea from cultures around the world.
One of the main reasons the Pigeon Pea has spread far and wide is its multitude of uses. It doesn’t only shine on the dinner table with its exceptionally high protein content, it is a fantastic soil improver as well. It sends down a solid tap root with plenty of side roots hosting nitrogen fixing bacteria in visible “nitrogen nodules”. If left untouched, the plant can grow into an 8’ shrub with branches skirting to the ground. Prefer a
tidier look? Prune into a tree shape. Use pruned branches as an unrivaledmulch and compost additive. Chop and drop to manage weeds and improve your soil under the shady canopy of your pigeon pea mini tree.
Or…..If you have an over abundance of mulch and are wishing you had some sustainable feed for your livestock, look no further! The leaves of this vigorous plant are an exceptional feedstock for farm ruminants (cows, goats, sheep).
When the pigeon pea goes to seed the ruminants and the chickens will go crazy for the pods. Start feeding when the pods are plump but still green to extend the feeding season. The ruminants will go after the pods right away, you may have to open few pods for your chickens until they learn to peck open the protein packed pods themselves.
Aside from being a great food for humans and animals and a cover crop, The pigeon pea also stands out as an easy grower.
Cajanas cajan has the ability to grow in a wide range of environments. It is particularly drought tolerant and manages well in pour soil, improving it as it grows. This legume that can be grown as an annual or a perennial and in Hawaii it is best planted in the spring for maximum foliar growth and seed set in the winter.
Tip: When planting Pigeon Pea seeds scratch or “scarify” the white “lips” (with sand paper or a file) and soak in water overnight to encourage germination. Plant in a pot or in the ground the following day. Water until established.
Plant the Pigeon Pea “Surprise Mix” now and stay tuned for processing tips and recipes.