Pigeonpea, Cajanus cajan, is a perennial shrub in the family Fabaceae grown for its edible pods and seeds. Pigeonpea is a highly branched shrub with a woody base, slender stems and trifoliate leaves. The plant leaflets are oblong or elliptical in shape and the leaves are alternate and arranged spirally on the stems. The plant usually produces yellow flowers, but they can be yellow with streaks of purple or red. The flowers are produced on racemes of 5–10 flowers. The seed pods are flat and either straight or sickle shaped and measure 5–9 cm (2–3.5 in) in length. Each pod can contain between 2 and 9 seeds which can be white, cream, brown, yellow, purple or black or mottled with any combination of these colors. Pigeonpea can reach 0.5–4.0 m (1.6–13.1 ft) in height and is usually grown as an annual, harvested after one season. It may also be referred to as red gram or congo pea and originates from India.
UsesPigeon pea is one of the most important legumes grown in semi-arid tropical regions and young seeds are consumed fresh as a vegetable or can be allowed to mature before drying and eating as a pulse. The seed pods are also edible and are eaten as a vegetable. The leaves and seed husks of the plant can be used as an animal feed.
Basic requirements Pigeon pea grows best in hot humid climates where temperatures are between 18 and 38°C (64.4–100.4°F). The plants will grow in a wide range of soils, from sandy soil to clay and also in soils with low fertility. Pigeon pea will grow optimally in a well drained soil with a pH between 5.0 and 7.0. Once established, pigeon pea is relatively tolerant to drought conditions and can survive for long periods with little irrigation. Propagation Pigeon pea is propagated directly from seed which should be sown in a prepared seed bed. Seeds should be planted to a depth of 2.5–10 cm (1–4 in) leaving 30–50 cm (12–20) between plants and 150 cm (60 in) between rows. Higher seeding rates should be used if the pant is being grown for use as a green manure. Pigeon pea is commonly intercropped with millets, cotton, sorghum or groundnut. General care and maintenance All weeds should be eliminated from the seed bed to prevent competition with the initially slow growing seedlings. Generally, pigeon pea does not require irrigation or fertilization. An application of phosphate at a rate of 20–100 kg per hectare is recommended and irrigation may be necessary if the plants are intensively grown. Harvesting Pigeon pea is commonly harvested by hand. Machine harvesting by combine is possible if a variety is grown where pods ripen uniformly. The plant is cut at the ground when the majority of pods have reached maturity. The plants are air dried and then threshed to remove the seeds.