Pigeon Peas (Cajanus Cajan) in Our Backyard


About five months ago, my wife planted a few seeds of “frijol de palo” (Pigeon Peas) in our backyard planning to harvest them whenever Nature decides the peas are ready to hit our dining table.

For those of you who are not familiar with this type of peas, let’s go ahead and expand a bit on the subject.  “Frijol de Palo” or “Guadús” as they are called in Panama and other countries in Central America are very popular in this part of the world.  For example, it would be impossible to sit on the table on Christmas Eve without a dish of “frijol de palo” mixed with white rice.  The demand for this pea is so high in December, that a pound of guandú escalates from $2.00 to $10.00 a few days before Christmas and New Year.  It drives Panamanians bananas during this time of year.

My wife is more inclined to eat pigeon peas than I am.  If it is served on the table, well and good.  If it doesn’t, no problem.  I can do without.  However, for most Panamanians, it is their favorite meal all year round.

The pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan) is a perennial legume from the family Fabaceae. Since its domestication in India at least 3,500 years ago, its seeds have become a common food grain in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. It is consumed in a large scale mainly in south Asia and is a major source of protein for the population of that subcontinent.

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.

World production of pigeon peas is estimated at 4.3 million tons. About 82 percent of this quantity is grown in India. These days it is the most essential ingredient of animal feed used in West Africa, especially in Nigeria, where it is also grown.

The pigeon pea is known by many names with different etymologies:

  • Frijol de Palo
  • Guandú
  • Gandul
  • Quinchoncho
  • Chícharo
  • Juan Duro
  • Arveja
  • Gungo Pea
  • Pigeon Pea
  • Congo Pea

Below are several pictures of our plant of “frijol de palo”  (tree bean) and its flowers.  At this moment it is blooming and soon the peas will start growing in small delicate organic bags.  You can see them in the first photograph.

Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
These are the red flowers of the pigeon peas in our backyard. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.

Good Day!

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4 thoughts on “Pigeon Peas (Cajanus Cajan) in Our Backyard”

  1. Good morning~ I’ve seen cans of them in our grocery stores but I don’t know anyone who eats them. They are very popular in Jamaica and cooked with rice and coconut milk. I enjoy all kinds of peas/beans and always have some cooked in the refrigerator from dried beans. It is a very good idea to grow your own so you and your wife can always have some on hand.

    Do they sell dry pigeon peas that you can stock up on before Christmas season hits and prices soar? Thank you, for the history of the peas 🙂

    1. Morning Barbara:

      I forgot to mention coconut milk. That is also very popular in Panama; white rice, guandú and coconut milk, specially in the Province of Colon.

      Yes, we can buy pigeon peas and freeze them up, but the culture in this town is to wait until the very last minute to get things done. It happens again and again.

      Enjoy the rest of the day, Barbara.

      Omar.-

  2. There are so many combinations of legumes and rice around the world. Cuba has black beans and rice (sometimes called Moors and Christians!), while red beans and rice is a Cajun staple — Texas, too. Of course we have our black-eyed peas for New Years, and during the Civil War, peanuts were called “goober peas.” Fun stuff!

    1. Hi Linda:

      That’s why blogs are so important to keep alive. Because of blogs people exchange information, ideas, foods, lifestyles, idioms, news, anxieties, political opinions and just about every subject a man or woman can come up with.

      Lingua Franca has been alive for many years, and as long as I have a breath of air, I’ll keep on tickling the keyboard posting pictures and other stuff that I think our readers will like, or subjects that I myself like even if others just turn the page. That’s okay too.

      I feel that the invention of the Internet, blogs, e-mail, social networks, etc. have contributed greatly to make the world a smaller place.

      Thank you for your daily comments, Linda. They mean so much to me. It’s the fuel that keeps me chugging along.

      Enjoy the rest of the day,

      Omar.-

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