Plant of the Week – Pigeon Pea

Pigeon Peas at Never Ending Food

Pigeon peas (Cajanus cajan) are called ‘nandolo’ in Chichewa. These small shrubs (up to 2-3 meters in height) are perennial legumes which can grow for up to 4-5 years. Originally from India, there is evidence that they have been cultivated in Africa as far back as 2,200 B.C.

Many parts of the pigeon pea plant are edible, including the seeds, seedpods, leaves, and young shoots. Nutritionally, pigeon pea seeds provide a good source of protein, carbohydrate, vitamins B1 and B9, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and potassium. The leaves have also been used medicinally to treat coughs, bronchitis, diarrhea, hemorrhages, sores, and wounds.

Due to its nitrogen-fixing properties, pigeon peas are often promoted as a useful agroforestry crop. Studies have shown that pigeon peas can add nitrogen to the soil in amounts of up to 50-70 kg/ha and increase crop production by over 30%.

Pigeon peas are a great addition to any Permaculture site! Their beautiful flowers make them useful as an ornamental plant within ‘functional landscaping’ systems, and their perennial nature makes them great for turning staple fields into longer-lasting food production. Best of all, the seeds taste great and can be used in any recipe which calls for beans.

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