Cajanus cajan: Pigeon Pea, Gandules, Pwa Kongo
Basics: Plant after danger of frost has passed, in full sun, space 2-3 feet. 90 days. Very colorful late season display. Grows 4-5 feet, will branch if tipped. Water regularly to establish; highly drought tolerant. Pods form in late summer. Pigeon peas are edible green or dried.
Pigeon peas are beautiful plants in the legume family– in subtropical and tropical regions they can grow as tall as 15 feet, but in the Pacific Northwest they can be grown as annuals, that reach about 4 to 5 feet. The long, pointed leaves are velvety soft, and the brilliant clusters of golden yellow and terracotta flowers bloom into the autumn. The pods are variegated maroon and green. Pigeon peas are delicious fresh or dried.
We are very pleased to offer the Lazaro pigeon pea variety, via Cajanus cajan expert Jonael Bosques of the Marion County, Florida Ag Extension office. He sent us Lazaro, which was bred in Puerto Rico, because it is an early maturing, non light-sensitive variety ideal for our region. Typically, pigeon peas mature in short days; thanks to the breeding program that brings us Lazaro, our pigeon pea will mature in 90 days. So, if you can grow tomatoes, you can grow pigeon peas!
Since pigeon peas are slow to establish, our plants have an early start in greenhouse conditions. They form a tap root that does not like to be disturbed, so be cautious in transplanting. After about 30 days from transplanting, the plant will begin to form a shrub, and in our trials reached an average of 4 feet, with multiple branches (see image above). They did well in the ground and in a pot large enough to accommodate a 1.5′ tap root. Plant in full sun and water when soil is dry. After they are established, pigeon peas can live on 1″ of water a month. They are nitrogen fixers like other legumes.
A bit on the origin and distribution of pigeon peas, and their importance in world-wide sustainability at the Global Crop Diversity Trust. See below for a link to a classic Haitian recipe!
In Haitian Creole, Pigeon peas are called Pwa Kongo.
Recipe for Pwa Kongo, a pigeon pea and fresh pea sauce that is one of the most popular in Haitian cuisine. Pigeon peas have a wonderfully meaty flavor, much more rich than a regular bean. They are also very high in protein!
Visit our pigeon pea photo album to see the plants in our trial gardens.