140 days — Although not common in the United States, and often considered an "orphan crop
," pigeon peas are a very important crop in most tropical and semitropical regions of the world. In reference to its high protein content and since it is typically grown by subsistence farmers, in marginal soils, it is sometimes referred to as "poor peoples' meat
." It has been cultivated at least 3,000 years and is believed to have originated in India, spread to East Africa, then to West Africa where Europeans first encountered it giving it the common name of "Congo Pea." It is believed to arrive in the Americas as early as the 17th century via slave trade. In India, the entire plant is utilized; the pods and seeds for food, fodder for livestock, and even the dry material for fire fuel and basketry.
The immature pods of Pigeon peas can be eaten like green peas or they can be left to mature a bit longer and enjoyed like shelly beans. When left to fully mature, the dried seeds have a pungent, sweet flavor, a meaty texture, and are used in dishes combined with beans, rice, and often seasoned with hot chilies. The slow cooking nature of these peas allows for a rich, savory broth to be created.
Pigeon peas are a vigorous, productive, drought-tolerant legume that under the correct conditions, grow as a perennial often forming good sized bushes. The plants are attractive and often used in the backs of flower beds.
As mentioned above, this is a relatively obscure crop in the United States and we are still learning about it as well. Since our farm is in a northern temperate zone, and not even close to being tropical, Pigeon peas are grown as an annual and seed production has its challenges. Some years it is a total failure. We plan to experiment with extending the season by trying to start the plants indoors and transplanting them into the field. If you have had success and have tips to share, please do so by writing a review. Each packet contains 0.5 ounce, which is approximately 80 seeds.