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Cajanus cajan (pigeon pea)

Pigeon pea is a versatile crop cultivated mainly for its edible seeds which are high in protein. It also has a number of medicinal uses.
Cajanus cajan, pigeon pea flower

Cajanus cajan (Photo: Mathias Isenberg)

Species information

Scientific name: 

Cajanus cajan (L.)Huth

Common name: 

pigeon pea, Congo pea, red gram (English); pois cajan, pois d’Angole, ambrevade (French); ervilha do Congo, feijão, guandu, ervilha de Angola (Portuguese); mbaazi (Swahili)

Conservation status: 

Widespread in cultivation. It is not known in the wild, but often occurs naturalized as an escape from cultivation.


Pigeon pea grows in tropical and subtropical regions. The crop thrives when annual rainfall is 600–1000 mm, but it is tolerant of drought and can be grown in areas with less than 600mm rainfall. Pigeon pea can grow on a wide range of soil types.

Key Uses: 

Food, fodder, medicine, living fence, basketry, fuel.


Leguminosae/Fabaceae - Papilionoideae
Genus: Cajanus

About this species

Cajanus cajan, more commonly known as pigeon pea, is a drought-resistant crop important for small scale farmers in semi-arid areas where rainfall is low. Pigeon pea contains high levels of protein and important B vitamins and is therefore especially important for people living on subsistence diets. In India, pigeon pea seeds come in a huge variety of flavours and colours, ranging from bitter to sweet and from black to creamy white.


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