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
- Juan Duro
- 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.