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Pigeon pea trials

Pigeon pea – Cajanus cajun is a drought tolerant nitrogen fixing shrubby perennial legume that can live for about 5 years. It is widely grown in India, Africa and central america where it is a staple crop and also used for making dal. Also known as Congo peas, no-eye peas, red gram and gandules. It is also frost tender which makes it tricky to grow in the UK, with pods and seeds not usually forming in time as flowering is usually triggered by shortening day length just as the autumn frosts arrive. Last year we grew a number of plants which grew vigorously but didn’t flower and sadly were killed off by the frosts in January even with protection in the polytunnel. This year ( 2022) marks a second trial, this time with a northern adapted pigeon pea which is not so sensitive to day length and can flower and produce pods within 120 days of planting, giving it a much better chance of producing a harvest of seeds by early autumn.

Pigeon pea Cajanus cajun flowering plant
Pigeon pea flowering

We planted trial plants both outside and undercover in our polytunnel. The outdoor plants survived the long hot summer without any irrigation and have flowered profusely and produced just a tiny handful of pods. We may be lucky and get a few to ripen to save the seed. The plants grown undercover have flowered and produced numerous pods, many which have dried nicely. We have harvested the ripe seeds and there are still more to come, so should have a sizable amount to work with next year.

Pigeon pea pod and flower
Pigeon pea close up of pods and flower

We will try and select the earliest flowering and most vigorous plants, and over time we hope to be able to offer our own seeds for sale. Pigeon peas can be picked while the peas are still green making it a drought tolerant alternative to regular pea crops. It also has the potential to be grown on until maturity and be processed as a dried pea and used as a lentil ( Toor dal in India is made from split pigeon peas). Seeds can also be sprouted before cooking.

Pigeon pea Cajanus cajun seeds
Pigeon pea seeds
Pigeon pea Cajanus cajun drying seed pods
Pigeon pea ripe seed pods

As our summers get warmer, maybe there is a place for this legume to be grown more widely and provide a drought tolerant source of vegetable protein. Watch this space!

“Thanks for everything, the info sheet was great. I planted the cuttings the day they arrived and have just multi sown the 9 star in seed trays. All very exciting, we’re now planning our perennial area.”

“You are right, perennial kale is fantastic! Thanks so much for the cuttings. I am a convert to having a corner of perpetual kale in the patch!”

“As the evening sun back lit the plants at Incredible Vegetables, I felt I was standing in one of the most important gardens of our time. Wildflowers working alongside an abundance of edimentals and perennial vegetables. A ‘food glade’ to rival the aesthetic of our greatest plant designers.”

– Jon Davies, garden designer, London Glades –

“I love your website and the work you’re doing. What you’re doing is exiting, useful, and one day will help to replace and enhance what human kind has damaged.With that our natural friends will return and we’ll be better for it.”

“Mandy, thank you. I am delighted with this plant – it is so strong and healthy and exceptionally well packaged – all done with loving care obviously. I shall look forward to having more plants from you.”

“Plants all arrived lovely and are growing well. I just wanted to say i was very impressed with the quality of the cuttings.. and its been a pleasure dealing with you. And I look forward to any purchases in the future.”

“The kale cuttings you sent survived the winter and are thriving. Thank you Mandy Barber you are the super hero of edibles, loving your work!!”

“I bought some Skirret seed’s off you last year. Well they grew and yesterday some got cooked and this message is just to say, they were delicious. Looking forward to a lot more next year. Thank you.”

“The Taunton Dean cuttings arrived a short while ago and never have I seen healthier looking cuttings! They are now firmly ensconced in some nice compost and are having a good drink. I even loved the packaging, which will be composted.”

“Hi I just wanted to let you know that I sowed half of my Caucasian spinach seeds and every single one grew, absolutely amazed, thanks for the seeds and keep up the good work.”

“Just to let you know that the lovely healthy looking plants arrived. Your plants are simply outstanding, every single tuber and plant are growing amazingly.”

“The plants arrived safely, I did not expect such magnificent specimens! I didn’t think I would be successful at stratification etc but I now have a whole bunch of Hablitzia seedlings sprouting after following your excellent advice.”

“Just to say, the Daubentons Kale is in the ground and looking well – thanks to the lovely damp compost encasing its roots…you do a good job at your end, I can tell by the way you package. Will be back for more of your wonderful perennials.”

“Thank you so much for all the vegetables, they really are incredible. I’m sure I’ve never before seen a healthier rootball than the one that arrived with our happy looking daubentons kale, and seeds and tubers are thriving thanks to all the useful information provided.”

“Thank you so much for sending such wonderful, healthy and very large plants. They are beautiful !! You packaged them so well and they arrived so quickly – I couldn’t get to the post office till the following day but they were absolutely fine. They’re now potted up and sitting in my ‘cold’ greenhouse while they adjust.”

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