How to grow pigeon peas?

Gonzalez AgroGardens

Product Detail: Package contains 25 seeds. Germination rate 90%. Purity 99%. Package includes instructions for planting.

General Plant Information: The pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan) is a perennial legume from the family Fabaceae. Since its domestication in India at least 3,500 years ago, its seeds have become a common food grain in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. It is consumed on a large scale mainly in south Asia and is a major source of protein for the population of that subcontinent.

Today, pigeon pea is widely cultivated in all tropical and semitropical regions. Pigeon peas can be of a perennial variety, in which the crop can last three to five years (although the seed yield drops considerably after the first two years), or an annual variety more suitable for seed production.

Pigeon pea is an important legume crop of rainfed agriculture in the semiarid tropics. The Indian subcontinent, eastern Africa and Central America, in that order, are the world’s three main pigeon pea-producing regions. Pigeon peas are a legume capable of symbiosis with Rhizobia, the pigeon pea enriches soil through symbiotic nitrogen fixation.

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

Growing requirements:



Full Sun






72-92 inches

Information for planting:

  • Days to emerge: 7-14 days
  • Seed depth: 1/4 inches
  • Seed spacing: 6 feet
  • Row: 9 feet
  • Harvest Time: 10 months

Information about our seeds: Most of our seeds come from traditional crops that farmers have cultivated for many years on natural managed lands. These seeds are not GMO, do not chemically or biologically treated and are processed with minimal mechanization. Seeds are hand selected, prepared and packaged.

Shipping details: We do shipments by First Class Mail Services (2-5 days). To keep you informed we will to send shipping updates regularly or a tracking number and you can track your package through

Guarantee: Seeds are living products that depend on many factors such as proper planting time and technique, depth of sowing, soil, proper germination environment, fertility, disease control, insect control, and reasonable weather for direct sown seeds. If any of these factors are not right, it may cause the seed to not perform and because most, if not all, of these are out of our control, most of the success of these seeds is in the hands of the grower. If they have been cared for properly and still fail to grow, we will replace the seed, one time.

How to contact us:

  1. Leave message in our email: “[email protected]”. We always respond messages within hours.


Both mature and immature pigeon peas can be harvested. For using as vegetable, you can start to harvest when the plants have green colored leaves and pods. And for grain purpose, start harvesting when 75 to 80 percent pods turn brown and dry. Don’t delay for harvesting the grains. Because, delaying can result in damage of the seeds. In small scale production, harvesting can be done by hand. And use machine for harvesting in large scale production. After harvesting, keep the bundles of the plant upright for drying purpose. And then remove the grains from the plants by threshing or traditionally by beating the plants by sticks.


Total yield depends on many different factors. But on average, you can expect about 700 kg yield per hectare.

Pigeon Pea Nutrition

Pigeon pea is very nutritious and it is very good for human health. It is rich in protein and has some important amino acids such as lysine, methionine and tryptophan.

Uses of Pigeon Pea

The grain, and the whole pigeon pea plants have many different uses. Some of the most important uses of pigeon pea are listed below.

  • Pigeon pea seed is very nutritious, and it is an excellent source of protein.
  • The pigeon pea bush has many uses in the sustainable landscape. The plants are also used to reduce soil erosion.
  • Some people use the shrub as a living hedge around fruit trees due to it’s ability to fix nitrogen.
  • The pods, leaves, flowers or the entire plants are used as an excellent animal fodder.

Hope you have enjoyed this guide for growing pigeon pea. Good luck!

Pigeon Pea Growing Information © Frances Michaels
Common Name: Pigeon Pea, Congo Pea, Red Gram
Botanical Name:Cajanus cajan syn. Cajanus indicus
Family: Fabaceae
Plant Description: A woody, leguminous shrub, to 3.6 m, with yellow and red flowers.
Ecology: It is hardy, widely adaptable and tolerant of temperatures as high as 35°C. It can be killed by heavy frost. An average annual rainfall between 600 and 1,000 mm is most suitable. However, it can be grown in humid areas, even over 2,500 mm of rainfall and is renowned for its drought tolerance. It gives economic yields of seeds in areas where rainfall averages about 400 mm annually. Although it cannot withstand waterlogging it can be grown in a wide range of soils, as it tolerates low fertility. Some cultivars are tolerant of salinity and aluminium. A pH range of 4.5 – 8.4 is tolerated.

  • Food; seeds are 25% protein, can be eaten fresh or as split dried peas, are used for dhal in India, contain 5 times more Vitamin A and C than green peas. The leaves and young shoots can be eaten cooked, they are fibrous and have a strong spicy odour.
  • Animal Fodder; an excellent feed for cattle, pigs and poultry.
  • Green Manure; incorporate the plants as they flower.
  • Mulch production; can be cut many times in a season.
  • Alley cropping; provides nitrogen, habitat and soil stabilisation.
  • Windbreaks; suitable as a shelterbelt around vegetable gardens.

Cultural Requirements
Recommended Planting Time: Spring, or during the wet season, soil temperature should be at least 25°C for germination, a higher soil temperature will give a more even germination.
Planting Depth: It can be direct-seeded, or planted into forestry tubes and later transplanted. Sow the seed 2.5 cm deep.
Details: Soaking seeds overnight will improve germination. Protect young plants from all grazing animals.
Inoculant: A group of bacteria called Rhizobium live in a symbiotic relationship with many legumes. This is a big advantage to the plant, as it is able, once inoculated, to produce its own nitrogen, from the soil air. The bacteria are stored in peat, and as this is a living culture, it must be treated with care. It should be stored in the fridge and used within 3 months. Do not separate from the seed packet as the inoculant attached is specific to the individual legume. To use, moisten the seed with a small amount of milk or water and stir in the inoculant until seeds are coated. Do not inoculate the seed until you are ready to sow it and do not leave the inoculated seed in the sun.


A few months ago I visited Jerry Coleby-Williams garden, Bellis. There were loads of pigeon pea plants growing in his garden. This got me thinking about the pigeon peas that was planted in our garden years ago.

Why We Started Growing Pigeon Pea

The reason that we grew Pigeon Pea in our garden was for permaculture reasons. We had just moved into a new house. There were existing fruit trees, but no lemon tree. We really wanted a lemon tree so one went into the ground. Near this lemon tree we planted a Pigeon pea.

The reason we did this is because pigeon pea is a multi-use plant.

You can use the leaves as a chop-and-drop crop for mulch. It means chopping the leaves and then dropping them around the drip line of your fruit trees. We grew comfrey around our fruit trees for the same reason.

Pigeon pea is a legume. Legumes are a nitrogen fixing plant. Nitrogen is important for lush growth in plants. Growing plants such as these can improve nitrogen in the soil without having to use chemical fertilisers.

This plant has a deep tap root. Use this to your advantage. Deep roots means that pigeon pea can access nutrients locked deep down in the soil. Comfrey also does the same.

There are other uses for Pigeon Pea. We didn’t initially grow this plant for these reasons, but they are good to know.

  1. Great as a hedge, windbreak or living trellis.
  2. Its flowers attract bees. Yay! Bonus. I must say that I love pigeon pea flowers, the contrast between the deep red and vibrant yellow makes me happy.
  3. Seeds are edible. After hearing Jerry talk about how he soaks the seeds and uses them in meals, I’m interested in this one. My pigeon peas do have seed pods at the moment. Now just to get around to the soaking and preparing!

Want to Grow Pigeon Pea

Pigeon Pea prefers a sub tropical to warm climate. It is super easy to grow from seed. So easy, that you will get random plants pop up in your garden when the plant seeds.

Tip – Soak your seeds overnight to improve germination. You will also need to inoculate your seeds to get the nitrogen fixation advantages. Green Harvest sells Pigeon Pea seeds with the inoculant.

Do you grow Pigeon Pea in your garden? We would love to hear your Pigeon Pea experience! Please feel free to share in the comments below.

Like to know how to prepare Pigeon peas for eating? Then read Pigeon peas: A sweet summer addition to the edible garden.

And to get you started, here is a Pigeon Pea Curry Recipe.

Pigeon peas: A sweet summer addition to the edible garden

For gardeners who lament the arrival of summer because it means pea season is over, consider the venerable pigeon pea — a hardy perennial that can produce successive harvests during the year. The sweet, fresh green peas (technically beans) are a doppelganger for petit pois, and they’re also nitrogen-fixing plants, enriching the soil.

The pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan), whose cultivation can be traced back more than 3,500 years, is known by a variety of names: Congo pea, Angola pea, red gram — postmarks of its travels as it spread from eastern India to Africa and the Middle East. In Barbados, it was used to feed pigeons.

Midsummer is when the yellow-red flowers appear, attracting flocks of hummingbirds. Soon after, clusters of fuzzy twisted pods appear, packed with brown speckled seeds that can be eaten fresh when green, when they most resemble peas.

Dried, pigeon peas are a main ingredient in Indian dals, Caribbean and African rice dishes, soups and stews. They are sometimes paired with green mango and fresh coconut. As beans, they need to be soaked and cooked for an hour or two. The taste is nutty and the texture crisp — a vegan’s bacon, say some.


“When they’re dry, you boil them longer,” says the West Indian native who goes by the name Mackadoo at Vermont Square Community Garden in Los Angeles. “My mother cooked chicken and rice and peas all the time.”

When green, the entire pod can be eaten, master gardener Tamiko Nakamoto says.

“In the Caribbean they also eat the young shoots just coming up,” says Nakamoto, also a member of the Vermont Square garden.

True to their name, pigeon pea plants yield greens and protein-rich seeds that make for good chicken fodder while also providing shelter for cage-free birds. The roots are said to repel rodents, including rats.


Like other legumes, pigeon peas do better when seeded directly in the ground, 1 inch deep. Soak them overnight before planting. If you want to sprout the peas so that you later can plant only the healthiest specimens, soak the seeds and leave them in a plastic bag in a warm spot. Seeds are easily available online through sources such as Purcell Mountain Farms.

Pigeon peas have a deep tap root and can handle semi-dry conditions, but they produce more with regular irrigation. It’s good interplanted with corn.

In commercial fields, pigeon peas are grown as annuals, but Vermont Square’s plant is about 4 years old, looking more like a tree and still fruiting vigorously. (In the best conditions, the plant can reach 15 feet tall.) It will continue pumping out pods for a few more years, gradually losing production.

This is a tropical forest plant, so it slows down in the winter — just in time for green peas.

The Global Garden, our look at multicultural L.A. through the lens of its landscapes, appears here on Tuesdays.

Keep It Up, David!

I’ve been in fridge-clean-out mode for the past few days. This happens before I travel – I make an effort to consume all my fresh produce, so nothing goes bad while I’m gone. I’m headed to Colorado for Thanksgiving tomorrow (Have you taken my Thanksgiving Pledge yet? ), and want to come home to an empty crisper drawer so I can fill it with fresh new things.

The other night, I found these in the back of my fridge:

Pigeon Peas! I bought these at the farmers market, and they got pushed behind a taller item in my fridge. Thankfully, they were in a container designed to extend the life of produce, so they were still good! But I’ve never eaten pigeon peas before, so one question remained: What was I going to do with them?

I was feeling kinda tired that night, so unfortunately, my meal isn’t that inspired. But I did learn a lot about pigeon peas, and that’s always a good thing.

Pigeon peas are native to India, where a majority of them are still grown. They’re also popular in parts of Africa and in some Caribbean cuisines. Fresh pigeon peas are sold when the pods are still young, and they’re called green pigeon peas. The peas turn yellow as they age, but mature peas are still harvested and dried, and then used like dry beans or lentils (a popular Indian soup, dal, is typically made with mature pigeon peas).

In Thailand, pigeon pea stalks are farmed as host plants for scale insects, which attach like parasites and suck food out of the plants. These insects secrete a resin called lac that can be harvested and turned into shellac, which is used as a wood finish and in the nail polish industry. (A certain species of scale insect is a brilliant deep red, and for centuries these insects have been collected, ground up, and turned into a dye… and that, my friends, is the history of the color we know as crimson!)

As a food source, pigeon peas, like soybeans, are high in protein. They also have a good collection of nutrients, including many B vitamins, as well as vitamins C and K, iron and phosphorus.

The farmer who sold me the pigeon peas must have noticed the quizzical look on my face, because she told me, before I even asked, that pigeon peas can be eaten like edamame. So that’s how I cooked ’em. The peas took a bath in boiling water for about 4 minutes, before I drained them. They got a little deeper in color during the cooking process:

Now for the tedious part: shelling them. You don’t eat the pigeon pea pods, just the peas inside. Luckily, they shell pretty easily, like edamame do, though they’re smaller, so it’s still incredibly time consuming. Here’s a pod that’s been relieved of its peas:

I didn’t buy tons of pigeon peas – just a couple handfuls, but it still took me 20 minutes, at least, to de-shell all of them. I had a stop a few times to go after peas that flew across my kitchen. And here’s my hard-earned yield!

Yay! I have about 1/3 of a cup of green pigeon peas!

I was tired to begin with, and thanks to the cooking and shelling, I was even less inspired to do something creative with them. So I tried a few just like this – and, surprise surprise, they tasted just like edamame. But smaller.

Forgive me for being so boring, but I ended up just adding the pigeon peas to some soup. I heated up one of my favorite boxed soups, Dr. McDougall’s Lower Sodium Garden Vegetable:

I love keeping this on hand, because a serving (half the box) is only 60 calories, is fat-free, and has only 290mg of sodium. And it’s pretty tasty! The soup is not a good source of protein (only 3g), so adding the pigeon peas boosted that number a little bit.

The pigeon peas were good in the soup! The soup’s vegetables were all a little mushy, which is how veggies in soup usually end up, so it was great to have something with a sturdier texture and a fresher taste.

I ended up eating both servings in the box, and toasted a couple pieces of bread to have with it. Add in some Greek yogurt, 3 hard-boiled egg whites (for some more protein) and a banana, and there you have it: A perfectly boring, utilitarian (and really healthy) meal that’s unremarkable in every way… except that it included a veggie that I tried for the first time!

Keep it up, David!

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 26th, 2013 at 12:02 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Caribbean Pigeon Pea Salad

This recipe, adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites (Clarkson Potter, 1996), turns a traditional Caribbean combination into a tangy salad. Pigeon peas, also known as gandulas, can be found canned or dried at Latin American markets or well-stocked grocery stores. Make sure you get the mature brown pigeon peas, not the green ones. If you can’t find pigeon peas, substitute an equal amount of beans of your choosing.

Deena Prichep for NPR Deena Prichep for NPR

Makes 4 to 6 servings


1 teaspoon annatto (achiote seed)*

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/4 cups brown rice

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

3 garlic cloves, pressed or minced

2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt


2 medium tomatoes, chopped and cored

3 garlic cloves, peeled

Juice of 1 lime

1 to 2 tablespoons cider vinegar (depending how much sourness you like)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

Salt and pepper to taste


1/2 cup finely chopped red onions

3/4 cup finely chopped celery

1 1/2 cups cooked pigeon peas

In a small saucepan, heat the annatto in the olive oil over low heat for about a minute, until the oil takes on a dark yellow-orange color. Drain through a strainer into a large pot. Add the rice, thyme and garlic to the oil in the large pot, and raise to medium-high heat. Stir for a few minutes to toast, then add the water and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat until it’s just high enough to remain at a simmer. Cover and simmer until rice is tender, about 40 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, make the dressing. Place all of the dressing items in a blender and puree until smooth. Taste to adjust seasonings and set aside.

When the rice is ready, turn out into a large bowl, and toss with the dressing. Let cool slightly, then fold in the vegetables. Chill before serving.

* Annatto/achiote is a seed that, when heated, gives oil an orange color and subtle flavor. You can find it at Latin American or Asian markets (labelled “curry korn”), and it’s sometimes available in a paste that you don’t have to worry about straining. If not available, omit and proceed with the recipe.

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