The pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan) is a perennial legume from the family Fabaceae. Since its domestication in South Asia at least 3,500 years ago, its seeds have become a common food grain in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
The pigeon pea is also known as kardis, gandule bean, tropical green pea, kadios, Congo pea, gungo pea, gunga pea, fio-fio, mgbụmgbụ, no-eye pea, toor dal, arhar dal, togari bele (ತೊಗರಿ ಬೇಳೆ) in Kannada, thuvaram paruppu (துவரம் பருப்பு) in Tamil, thuvara parippu (തുവരപ്പരിപ്പ്) in Malayalam, kandi pappu (కందిపప్పు) in Telugu, Behiang in Zomi / Mizo and mbaazi, and, in Tanzania, mzimbili mussa.
The cultivation of the pigeon pea goes back at least 3,500 years. The centre of origin is the eastern part of peninsular India, including the state of Odisha, where the closest wild relatives (Mansi) occur in tropical deciduous woodlands. Archaeological finds of pigeon pea include those from two Neolithic sites in Odisha, Gopalpur and Golbai Sassan dating between 3,400 and 3,000 years ago, and sites in South India, Sanganakallu and Tuljapur Garhi, also dating back to 3,400 years ago. From India it traveled to East Africa and West Africa. There, it was first encountered by Europeans, so it obtained the name Congo Pea. By means of the slave trade it came to the American continent, probably in the 17th century.
Today, pigeon peas are widely cultivated in all tropical and semitropical regions of both the Old and the New Worlds. 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 peas are 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 cultivated in more than 25 tropical and subtropical countries, either as a sole crop or intermixed with cereals, such as sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), pearl millet (Pennisetium glaucum), or maize (Zea mays), or with other legumes, such as peanuts (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) landraces. 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, so can be grown in areas with less than 650 mm annual rainfall. With the maize crop failing three out of five years in drought-prone areas of Kenya, a consortium led by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) aimed to promote the pigeonpea as a drought-resistant, nutritious alternative crop. Successive projects encouraged commercialization of legumes, by stimulating the growth of local seed production and agro-dealer networks for distribution and marketing. This work, which included linking producers to wholesalers, helped to increase local producer prices by 20–25% in Nairobi and Mombasa. The commercialization of pigeonpea is now enabling farmers to buy assets, ranging from mobile phones to productive land and livestock, and is opening pathways for them to move out of poverty.
World production of pigeon peas is estimated at 4.3 million tons2. 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. In combination with cereals, pigeon peas make a well-balanced human food. The dried peas may be sprouted briefly, then cooked, for a flavor 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) also called Kandhi pappu in Telugu, Togari bele in Kannada and Tuvaram paruppu in Tamil 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 a vegetable in dishes such as sambar. In Ethiopia, not only the pods, but also the young shoots and leaves are cooked and eaten.
In some places, such as the Caribbean coast of Colombia, Dominican Republic, Panama and Hawaii, pigeon peas are grown for canning and consumption. A dish made of rice and green pigeon peas (called moro de gandules) is a traditional food in the Dominican Republic. Pigeon peas are also made as a stew, with plantain balls. In Puerto Rico arroz con gandules is made with rice and pigeon peas and is a typical dish. Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada have their own variant, called pelau, which includes either beef or chicken, and occasionally pumpkin and pieces of cured pig tail. In the Atlantico department of Colombia the sopa de guandú con carne salada (or simply "gandules") is made with pigeon peas.
Unlike in some other parts of the Greater Caribbean, in The Bahamas the light brown colored dried seeds of the pigeon pea plant are used (instead of the fresh green pigeon peas used elsewhere) to make the heartier, heavier, signature Bahamian staple dish "Peas 'n Rice." A slab of partially cubed or diced pork "fatback" lard with skin on (bacon is a common substitute), diced onions and sweet pepper, and a mixture of spices are all sauteed in the bottom of a deep pot. Tomatoes and tomato paste are added. Then water is added along with the peas and rice, and slow boiled until tender. The dish becomes a medium-dark brown color, resulting from absorbing the colors of the browned initial ingredients and the cooked tomato paste. The pigeon peas themselves absorb the same, becoming a much darker brown, providing some contrast while still complementing the distinctive "browned" theme of the dish.
Pigeon peas are in some areas an important crop for green manure, providing up to 90 kg nitrogen per hectare (Adu-Gyamfi et al., 2007) . The woody stems of pigeon peas can also be used as firewood, fencing and thatch.
The pigeon pea is the first seed legume plant to have its complete genome sequenced. The sequencing was accomplished by a global research partnership, the International Initiative for Pigeonpea Genomics (IIPG), led by ICRISAT with partners such as BGI –Shenzhen (China), US research laboratories like University of Georgia, University of California-Davis, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and National Centre for Genome Resources, European research institutes like the National University of Ireland Galway and also support from the CGIAR Generation Challenge Programme, US National Science Foundation and in-kind contribution from the collaborating research institutes.  It is the first time that a Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)-supported Center such as ICRISAT led the genome sequencing of a food crop. In parallel, a group of 31 Indian scientists from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research also published its genome sequence in an Indian journal. 
Following table indicates completeness of nutritional profile of various amino acids within mature seeds of pigeon pea.
|Essential Amino Acid||Available mg/g of Protein||Min. Required mg/g of Protein|
In contrast to the mature seeds, the immature seeds are generally lower in all nutritional values, however they contain a significant amount of vitamin C (39 mg per 100 g serving) and have a slightly higher fat content. Research has shown that the protein content of the immature seeds is of a higher quality.
- Van der Maeson, L. J. G. (1995). Pigeonpea Cajanus cajan, pp. 251–5 in Smartt, J. and Simmonds, N. W. (eds.), Evolution of Crop Plants. Essex: Longman.
- Fuller, D. Q.; Harvey, E. L. (2006). "The archaeobotany of Indian pulses: Identification, processing and evidence for cultivation". Environmental Archaeology 11 (2): 219. doi:10.1179/174963106x123232.
- Carney, J. A. and Rosomoff, R. N. (2009) In the Shadow of Slavery. Africa’s Botanical legacy in the Atlantic World. Berkeley: University of California Press
- Pigeonpea in Eastern and Southern Africa http://exploreit.icrisat.org/page/eastern_and_southern_africa/887/329. ICRISAT Posted 10 October 2012. Downloaded 26 January 2014.
- "Effect of Sprouting on invitro digestibility of some locally consumed leguminous seeds". Journal of Applied Sciences and Environmental Management. Vol. 10, Num. 3, 2006, pp. 55-58
- Zemede Asfaw, "Conservation and use of traditional vegetables in Ethiopia", Proceedings of the IPGRI International Workshop on Genetic Resources of Traditional Vegetables in Africa (Nairobi, 29–31 August 1995)
- "Tru Bahamian Must Eats: Peas & Rice". Tru Bahamian Food Tours. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
- "ICRISAT-led global team cracks pigeonpea genome". Retrieved 2014-12-21.
- "Draft genome sequence of pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan), an orphan legume crop of resource-poor farmers". Retrieved 2014-12-21.
- "The first draft of the pigeonpea genome sequence". Retrieved 2014-12-21.
- "Nutrition Facts and Analysis for Pigeon peas (red gram), mature seeds, raw"
- Bressani R, Gómez-Brenes RA, Elías LG. (1986). "Nutritional quality of pigeon pea protein, immature and ripe, and its supplementary value for cereals". Arch Latinoam Nutr. 36 (1): 108–16. PMID 363219.
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