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Pigeon pea

 

Synonyms: Congo pea, red gram, yellow dhal

botanical name: Cajanus cajan L. (Millsp. Cajanus indicus Spreng.)

 

Pigeon peas are actually beans, but owing to their small size they are termed peas. They belong to the Fabaceae family, also called Leguminosae.

It is not certain whether pigeon peas originally stem from Africa or from India. The oldest seeds found, in Ethiopia, were 4000 years old. However, the greatest number of varieties are found in India, along with old Sanskrit texts in which the pigeon pea was mentioned as early as 1500 b.c.

 

In any case, the pigeon pea was later introduced by the Portuguese to Brazil and the Caribbean, from where it spread to North and Central America. There are many different varieties of pigeon peas, which are adapted to the given conditions of the regions where they are farmed in the tropics and subtropics. Thus each variety is optimally suited to the local temperature, amount of precipitation, condition of the soil, and climate.

 

The main producer is India, but pigeon peas are also grown in many other parts of Asia, Africa and America.

 

Availability

 

Pigeon peas are harvested from July on and then stored in some cases until February. In Germany they are best found in Asian shops.

 

Appearance, taste, characteristics

 

The species Cajanus cajan includes many varieties that have prevailed in the different producing countries.

 

The seed, i.e., that which is eaten as the pigeon pea, is quite small and almost spherical. In some cases seeds may also be slightly oblate. Depending on the variety, the colour can be red, white, brown or black, and some are speckled. Three to six seeds each are found in a slightly curved pod.

In Jamaica, for instance, there are two main varieties: the no-eye pea (Cajanus cajan var. flavus), whose blossoms are pure yellow, and the Congo pea or gungo pea (Cajanus cajan var. bicolor), whose blossoms are interveined with red and whose peas are coarser grained than those of the no-eye pea.

 

Ingredients

 

One hundred grams of the edible part contain:

 

 

Seeds, dried

Processed seeds, tinned

Fresh seeds, tinned (with salt added)

Energy (kcal)

281

35.4

64.5

Water (g)

11.2

n.a.*

n.a.*

Protein (g)

20.2

0.8

3.2

Fat (g)

1.4

0

0

Carbohydrates (g)

47

7.7

12.1

Fibre (g)

8.6

6.2

3.2

Vitamin C (mg)

-

n.a.*

n.a.*

Vitamin A (RE) (µg)

17

n.a.*

n.a.*

Vitamin B1 (thiamine) (mg)

0.58

n.a.*

n.a.*

Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) (mg)

0.17

n.a.*

n.a.*

Nicotinamide (mg)

2.6

n.a.*

n.a.*

Potassium (mg)

927

n.a.*

n.a.*

Sodium (mg)

26

56.2

491.9

Calcium (mg)

123

n.a.*

n.a.*

Magnesium (mg)

1.8

n.a.*

n.a.*

Iron (mg)

5.8

n.a.*

n.a.*

Phosphorus (mg)

282

n.a.*

n.a.*

*n.a.: no information available

 

Presumed effect on health

 

The seeds are usually harvested while unripe and still green, then cooked and eaten as a vegetable. The pods are used in salads.

 

When ripe, the pods split open. Following the harvest they are dried and threshed. The beans are used, chiefly husked and split, for consumption in soups or other traditional dishes. The leaves of the plant are also edible; they are plucked for salads or vegetable dishes as needed.

 

Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation

 

In the countries of origin, pigeon peas are traditionally used for healing. The leaves can be used to treat wounds, bladder stones, jaundice, and skin and genital disorders. Extracts of the blossoms are used for respiratory diseases, the roots as a sedative. Ground seeds are said to be effective for headache and dizziness, while fresh seeds are used for incontinence.

 

 

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