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Know your Pigeon pea

  • The pigeon peaCajanus cajan, is a perennial member of the family Fabaceae.
  • The pigeon pea is also known as toor dal (India), Congo peaGungo pea (in Jamaica), Gandule (in Puerto Rico), Gunga pea, or no-eye pea.
  • The cultivation of the pigeon pea goes back at least 3000 years. 
  • The centre of origin is most likely Asia, from where it travelled to East Africa and by means of the slave trade to the American continent. 
  • Today pigeon peas are widely cultivated in all tropical and semi-tropical regions of both the Old and the New World. 
  • Pigeon peas can be of a perennial varieity, in which the crop can last 3–5 years (although the seed yield drops considerably after the first two years), or an annual variety more suitable for grain production.
  • Pigeon peas are an important grain legume crop of rain-fed agriculture in the semi-arid 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 cultivated in more than 25 tropical and sub-tropical countries, either as a sole crop or intermixed with such cereals as sorghum (Sorchum bicolor), pearl millet (Pennisetium glaucum), or maize (Zea mays), or with legumes, e.g. peanut (Arachis hypogaea). 
  • Being a legume, the pigeon pea enriches soil through symbiotic nitrogen fixation.
  • The crop is cultivated on marginal land by resource-poor farmers, who commonly grow traditional medium- and long-duration (5–11 months) land-races.
  •  Short-duration pigeon peas (3–4 months) suitable for multiple cropping have recently been developed. 
  • Traditionally, the use of such input as fertilizers, weeding, irrigation, and pesticides is minimal, so present yield levels are low (average = 700 kg/ha). 
  • Greater attention is now being given to managing the crop because it is in high demand at remunerative prices.
  • Pigeon peas are very drought resistant and can be grown in areas with less than 650 mm annual rainfall.
  • World production of pigeon peas is estimated at 46,000 km2. About 82% of this is grown in India. 
  • These days it is the most essential ingredient of animal feed used in West Africa, most especially in Nigeria where it is also grown.
  • Pigeon peas are both a food crop (dried peas, flour, or green vegetable peas) and a forage/cover crop.
  • They contain high levels of protein and the important amino acids methionine, lysine, and tryptophan. 
  • In combination with cereals, pigeon peas make a well-balanced human food. 
  • The dried peas may be sprouted briefly, then cooked, for a flavour different from the green or dried peas. 
  • Sprouting also enhances the digestibility of dried pigeon peas via the reduction of indigestible sugars that would otherwise remain in the cooked dried peas.
  • In India, split pigeon peas (toor dal) are one of the most popular pulses, being an important source of protein in a mostly vegetarian diet. In regions where it grows, fresh young pods are eaten as vegetable in dishes such as sambhar.
  • In Ethiopia, not only the pods but the young shoots and leaves are cooked and eaten.
  • In some places, such as the Dominican Republic and Hawaii, pigeon peas are grown for canning. 
  • A dish made of rice and green pigeon peas (called "gandules" or "gandures") are a traditional food in Puerto Rican cuisine.
  • In Thailand, pigeon peas are grown as a host for scale insects which produce lac.
  • Pigeon peas are in some areas an important crop for green manure, providing up to 40 kg nitrogen per hectare. 
  • The woody stems of pigeon peas can also be used as firewood, fencing and thatch.
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