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close this bookTraditional Food Plants of Kenya (National Museum of Kenya, 1999, 288 p.)
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Cajanus cajan (L.) Millsp.

Papilionaceae (Fabaceae)

Chonyi: mbalazi (fruit), mubalazi Embu: njugu English: pigeon pea Giriama: mbubalazi Kamba: nzuu Kambe: mbalazi (fruit), mubalazi Kikuyu: njugu Luo: obong Marakwet: njugu Meru: nangu, ncugu Swahili: mbaazi Teso: epana Tharaka: njugu

Description: A shrub, usually 2-3 m tall with a dense and narrow or loose crown. Branches erect, drooping when with fruit. BARK: Green or dark red with pale longitudinal lines. LEAVES: Each with 3 leaflets covered with glands. Upper surface soft, dark green. Paler and with prominent veins beneath. FLOWERS: In terminal or axillary inflorescences, yellow to dark red (standard with reddish brown lines). FRUIT: Pods to 10 cm long, straight or slightly curved with hairy glandular surface, green, often streaked red, dark brown or purplish black. Seeds up to 9 (commonly 5-6) per pod, green, turning cream or light brown on drying.

Ecology: Cultivated in tropical Africa and America and a great deal in India. Cultivated in many parts of Kenya, especially in Murang'a, Kirinyaga, Embu, Meru, Machakos, Kitui and Makueni Districts. Also grown in the Kerio valley. West Pokot, southern Turkana and in Nyanza Province, 0-1,800 m. Does best in semi-arid to sub-humid areas. Occasionally found as an escape on waste ground. Red clay soils and clayey sandy soils are best. Rainfall: 600-1,000 mm. Zones III-V.

Uses: FOOD: Peas may be mashed with other foods like potatoes, cooked with maize, or made into a stew (mbogd) and eaten along with ugali. Peas are boiled, mashed and rolled into balls or boiled with sorghum (Luo). Among the Kikuyu, pigeon peas were important food during ceremonies like circumcision.

OTHER: After harvesting the stalks are cut and used as firewood (rather poor quality, burns fast but an important fuel during the wet and planting seasons). A good plant for crop rotation or intercropping. An important fodder plant during the dry season after crop harvest. The dry leaves and pods remain after harvest and are important food for donkeys, cattle and goats.

COMMERCIAL: Sold in various forms: fresh pods, green peas without pods and dry peas, mainly in central and coastal parts of Kenya and in Nairobi.

Season: Flowers in May-June in Machakos, Kitui, Mbeere and Mwingi. Fruits in July-August in Mbeere, Kitui and Machakos.

Management: May be grown as a pure stand or with other crops. In the low hot regions of Eastern Province it is normally planted during the short October/November rains and harvested in July-August the following year. In Nyanza normally planted sparsely or at the edge of crop land. Harvesting: Once the pods are dry, the fruiting branchlets are cut or broken off and spread on the ground for further drying (especially of leaves and fresh pods). Dry pods easily split open releasing seeds when threshed. These are winnowed on a windy day. Seeds do not store for long without insecticides.


Figure


Figure

Pigeon pea is still an important crop in semi-arid areas, i.e. Machakos, Makueni, Mbeere and Tharaka-Nithi Districts. In the more humid areas its cultivation has declined because of introduction of other crops such as field peas (Pisum sativum, Kikuyu: minji) and kidney beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L., Kikuyu: mboco, Kamba: mboso, Luo: oganda, Swahili: maharagwe). In many areas increased attack by insect pests (kathoa, Kikuyu, Kamba) at flowering time has reduced yields significantly in recent years, in some cases causing total crop failure.

Pigeon pea is a hardy crop and a preferred food. It may be intercropped with deeply rooted crops such as cowpeas (the creeping type), cassava, pumpkins, gourds and sweet potato. Crops such as maize, beans, millets, sorghum and quick-maturing types of cowpeas are adversely affected. Its potential in the food industry is still not yet fully exploited. Pests are a major problem threatening its cultivation.

Remarks: The origin of this important crop is still a subject of contention. It is believed to be of African origin, but the possibility of it being Asian cannot be discounted. There are only two species in this genus; the other, C. kerstingii. Harms, grows wild in West Africa and hence the assumption that the pigeon pea is probably of African origin. Some forms of this crop have their origin in India.


Figure