Pigeon Peas

Cajanus cajan
Pigeon Peas growing in a garden in Massachusetts in September of 2016 (Photo by Zoraia Barros)
Pigeon Peas growing in a garden in Massachusetts in September of 2016 (Photo by Zoraia Barros)
Author(s): 

Zoraia Barros, Heriberto Godoy-Hernandez, Frank Mangan and Beth Kazimer

Latest Update: 
May 31, 2017

Introduction

Pigeon peas are a staple crop in Puerto Rico, especially with a dish called rice and pigeon peas (arroz con gandules, in Spanish) (Figure 1). This is dish consumed daily by many Puerto Ricans, both in Puerto Rico and the United States. In 2010, the value of pigeon peas in Puerto Rico was one $1,361,000, which was second to tender corn (maíz tierno, in Spanish), followed by green beans (habichuelas en vaina, in Spanish), dried beans (habichuelas en grano, in Spanish) and fresh beans (habichelas tiernas, in Spanish).

In Puerto Rico there is strong demand for fresh pigeon peas. In spite of this fact, the majority of pigeon peas consumed in Puerto Rico are canned or frozen, and all imported. 

Pigen peas are found in markets serving Puerto Rican communities in Massachsuetts in three forms: canned (Figure 2), frozen (Fingure 3) and "fresh" (Figure 4). Markets and consumers in Massachusetts will call the gandules for sale "fresh", but in fact they are harvested fresh in the Domincian Republic, but then frozen and shipped to the Unitest States where they are thawed and put out for sale as fresh, Figure 4 (Zoraia Barros, Personal Communication, 2017).

Figure 5

Figure 1. Rice and pigeon peas (arroz con gandules) as a side dish at a restaurant that caters to Puerto Ricans in Springfield, Mass. in 2017. (Photo Frank Mangan, 2017)
Figure 2. Canned pigeon peas for sale at a market in Holyoke Mass. in 2017 that caters to Puerto Ricans. Photo by Frank Mangan)
Figure 3. Frozen pigeon peas for sale at a market in Holyoke Mass. in 2017 that caters to Puerto Ricans. Photo by Frank Mangan)
Figure 5. Fresh pigeon peas for sale at a market in Puerto Rico in July, 2017. (Photo by Yasmin del Rio)
Figure 4. "Fresh" pigeon peas sale at a market in Holyoke Mass. in 2017 that caters to Puerto Ricans. Photo by Frank Mangan)

Production

The pigeon pea is a shrub that grows from one to a few meters tall and perhaps a couple meters wide, unless special short-season varieties are chosen. Most types flower when the days are 11 to 11 1/2 hours long, but varieties responding to both shorter and longer day lengths are available, and some will flower at any time of the year. Usually flowering begins in 120-150 days and seed maturity in 250 days, but these figures can be as early as 60 and 100 days respectively. Advantages of pigeon pea production is that they grow well in poor soils and dry conditions, are a nutritious and high-protein pulse crop and they can be used for animal field and as a cover crop.

In Massachusetts, pigeon peas have to be started as transplants in order to produce marketable fruit before frost (Figure 5). The transplants can be transplanted into the field after the danger of frost. In a high tunnel at the UMass Research Farm in Deerfield Mass, pigeon pea transplants were put into the ground on May 31, 2017 at the row spacing of 1’ in the row. There were two rows of pigeon peas spaced one foot apart on degradable plastic mulch (Figure 6). The plastic mulch was spaced 5’ 6 inches on center for a total population of 15,700 plants/acre (Figure 7).

Growth (Figure 8) and flowers (Figure 9) of pigeon peas in a high tunnel at the UMass Research Farm on July 12, 2017. Immature pods on pigeon peas in a high tunnel at the UMass Research Farm on July 18, 2017 (Figure 10). 

 

Figure 5. Pigeon pea transplants in a greenhouse in Whatley Mass. ready to be set in the field on May 31, 2017. (Photo by Frank Mangan)
Figure 6. Pigeon peas being transplanted in a high tunnel at the UMass Research Farm in Deerfield Mass. on May 31, 2017. (Photo by Frank Mangan)
Figure 7. Pigeon peas in a high tunnel at the UMass Research Farm in Deerfield Mass. on June 20, 2017. (Photo by Frank Mangan)
Figure 7. Pigeon peas in a high tunnel at the UMass Research Farm in Deerfield Mass. on July 12, 2017. (Photo by Frank Mangan)
Figure 8. Flowers of pigeon peas in a high tunnel at the UMass Research Farm in Deerfield Mass. on July 12, 2017. (Photo by Frank Mangan)
Figure 10. Immature pods on pigeon peas in a high tunnel at the UMass Research Farm on July 18, 2017. (Photo by Frank Mangan)

References

Price, M.L. Pigeon pea. ECHO TECHNICAL NOTE. 1990. https://c.ymcdn.com/sites/echocommunity.site-ym.com/resource/collection/...

Situación de la producción y el mercado de habichuelas, Gandules y maíz en Puerto Rico. 2013. Mildred Cortés , Leticia Gayol y Pedro Márquez.  https://www.researchgate.net/publication/275040326_Situacion_de_la_produ...

Found in:

Puerto Rico
Gandules