Dr. Joe Masabni
Department of Horticulture
Texas AgriLife Extension Service
Pigeon peas, which are different from sugar peas, are commercially important in India. Pigeon pea varieties are classified as tree-type, tall and dwarf. New hybrids are similar in height to Southern peas and beans. Pigeon peas must be grown as an annual in most parts of the U.S. since plants are killed by freezing temperatures. The plant is a vigorous, drought-tolerant legume which yields large pods that are easily harvested. This pea is a heavy bearer, yielding sweet-tasting peas. It is suited for early summer planting and grow under hot conditions.
Culture for pigeon peas is similar to Southern peas and edible soybeans. Plant seed 3/4 to 1 inch deep in late spring after soil temperatures have risen. Place seed 3 to 4 inches apart on raised beds which are 40 inches apart. It is a long season crop requiring approximately 140 days from seeding to the beginning of harvest.
The condition of the pod is key to pigeon pea quality. Avoid pigeon peas with poor coloring; a yellowish color on fresh pigeon peas indicates damage or rapid aging. Poor quality pigeon peas are tough and lack the characteristic sweet flavor. Most are harvested in the dry stage and marketed as dried peas.