Pigeon Peas are Amazing
Down on the island of Grenada when I attended Grace Lutheran, we’d sometimes have church get togethers at the beach, where we’d read the Bible, sing, have a meal, play in the ocean and enjoy making music together.
That’s my friend Patrick on the left, who played a variety of instruments excellently. I miss him.
At these celebrations, there were often ladies shelling bags of pigeon peas in the shade as they chatted. It was part of the social life of the island to shell peas. They were shelled and used green, and later in the year, also shelled for use as dried peas. Though I don’t much like pigeon peas when they are just boiled, they are really good when cooked in coconut milk and turmeric with salt.
I learned to grow pigeon peas as a serious crop from my friend Mike, a farmer who lived down the road from us. I previously grew them in my North Florida food forest, but never got a good harvest of peas due to the late flowering of the bushes. Just about the time they set pods, a frost rolled through and took the plants down.
They still fixed nitrogen and fed the goats, but we missed out on the peas. In the tropics, this wasn’t a problem, as the shrubs grew for multiple years and bore abundant peas far from the icy hands of Jack Frost.
In Grenada, Mike taught me how to clear new land and keep the brush from re-emerging by interplanting pigeon peas with corn. I have more details and a diagram here. It was a great system which we used multiple times on new ground.
Last week I found some dry pigeon peas at a Hispanic market in Ft. Lauderdale and decided they would be the perfect plant for repairing part of my lousy potato patch. While planting, I decided to film a video and talk about these great tropical peas.
You can see that video here, and learn more about why I love this plant and how I grow it as a multi-purpose species.
Also – if you’re not in the tropics, Frodo comments on the video:
“Hey David, I had been meaning to contact you but forgot. Someone has done the breeding and I got some northern adapted pigeon peas growing now. They say they can make all the way to New York. I have some growing now in 8b Louisiana. I guess we’ll see! True Love Seeds is where I got mine.”
Sounds like a variety to try next year.
Pigeon peas are a great compost crop, a good fuel for rocket stoves, a great feed for goats, a good fresh or dry pea, a great weed suppressing plant, an excellent nitrogen-fixer and a multi-year perennial in the right climate.
This plant is also profiled (along with many other useful species) in my new book Create Your Own Florida Food Forest, an extensively illustrated and detailed look at building food forests in Florida.
You can also bypass Amazon and get Create Your Own Florida Food Forest direct from the printer here.