Pigeon Peas – Perennial food source for people and poultry

People who grow food for people and animals will appreciate the many benefits of growing pigeon peas, Cajanus cajan, family fabaceae.

Pigeon Peas October 2015
Pigeon Peas October 2015

Many cultures love and grow this plant, but here in the USA, we don’t hear much about it.   We’re growing them here in Southern California and we love them so much that we want to share our enthusiasm about them with you.

We were introduced to pigeon peas on this permaculture site which is clever and fun to read.  Rather than me trying to re-state all of the information, please check it out here and then come back for the rest of the story!

tropicalpermaculture.com/pigeon-pea

We ordered our first seeds on amazon.com and planted them in May 2014, so they’re about 2 1/2 years old in our garden now.  We are now offering seeds for sale in our community.

They grow great here in USDA Zone 10A/Sunset Western Garden zone 23.  Soak the seeds in water for a day and they will begin to swell, then plant them about 1/2″ deep in the garden soil and cover lightly with mulch.  Keep the soil evenly moist until the seeds sprout, which may take a couple of weeks.  It’s great to plant them in fall or spring, when we are getting regular rain.

Take a look… here they are just a few weeks after planting…

Pigeon Pea seedlings in May 2014 - when newly planted
Pigeon Pea seedlings in May 2014 – when newly planted

Grow they did – and grow some more – and they keep growing 1 1/2 years later.   It’s so pleasant and fun when something grows with such ease!

Pigeon Peas at 1 and 1/2 years old
Pigeon Peas at 1 and 1/2 years old
The Pigeon Peas are about 6 feet tall at 1 & 1/2 years old.
The Pigeon Peas are about 6 feet tall at 1 & 1/2 years old.
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Here’s a shot of the pigeon pea pods – with a caterpillar crawling on them.  Butterflies love these plants, and so do bees and hummingbirds.
Butterfly on Pigeon Pea
Butterfly on Pigeon Pea
Pigeon Peas 2.5 years old, still producing abundantly :)
Pigeon Peas in 2016:   2 1/2 years old, still producing abundantly 🙂

They’ve been producing pods prolifically.  All summer we pick baskets full every day.

This makes the turkeys very happy, because they love them so much!!!   It feels good to give them something freshly grown.

They’re delicious just eaten off the plant, and they make a great addition to a salad or they can be boiled in salted water and they come out like edamame (boiled soybeans you get in Japanese restaurants as an appetizer).  They’re a great snack when served that way.  Other cultures serve them regularly with rice and in soups and stews too.  There are many recipes available.

As the weather began to cool down this fall, I noticed that the pea production slowed down, but stray pigeon peas plants had volunteered to grow where ever they had been dropped.  They grow with practically no effort.

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A volunteer seedling sprouting under the oak tree, with no human care.

We saved some of the seeds and planted a new hedge with them too – so when those start producing, we will have not only something unique, but enough to offer to the community.

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The flowers are beautiful too – they are red when still closed, and open up into a bright yellow.

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Here’s a shot of one small green pod opened up to show the peas.  They are delicious at this stage.  Once they mature and dry out, they have to be soaked to be eaten.  I think we’ve always eaten them fresh, but maybe soon we’ll make a pot of beans from the dried ones!

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Younger Peas on Left, Older Peas on Right

Thank you for reading this post – we hope you enjoyed it!

– Aloha 🙂

Roots Grow Fruits by Joe Ceraso
“Roots Grow Fruits” by Joe Ceraso

 

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