The pigeon pea (scientific name – Cajanus cajan, family Fabaceae) is thought to have originated in India, where it is still widely grown as a food crop.
In the present day, it is widely cultivated in all semitropical and tropical regions from Eastern Asia to the Central America. India is still the biggest producer of PP, with approximately 82 percent of worldwide production. Apart from India, eastern Central America and Africa are the world’s main pigeon pea-producing regions.
This plant is also known as – Congo pea, pois cajan, red gram, pois d’Angole, ambrevade, ervilha do Congo, mbaazi, feijao, guandu, ervilha de Angola.
They are high in nutrients and moderate in calories. Each cup of cooked PP has 209 calories, 2.5 grams of unsaturated fat, 11 grams of protein, and 8 grams of dietary fiber.
They are a good source of Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, C, K, and minerals – magnesium, calcium, selenium, copper, zinc, sodium, potassium, iron, manganese, phosphorus.
A cup of these beans contains 36% of your daily requirement for folate. Folate or folic acid, usually known as vitamin B9, plays an essential role in many bodily functions, including amino acid metabolism, cell maintenance and repair, DNA synthesis, and the formation of erythrocytes and leukocytes.
Health benefits of pigeon peas (Cajanus cajan)
High protein content – these beans contain high levels of protein and the important amino acids methionine, lysine, and tryptophan are found in high quantities.
Methionine is an essential amino acid that is necessary for the human body to function correctly. This essential amino acid cannot be synthesized by the body, so it must be obtained through dietary intake only. Furthermore, methionine is needed to make creatine, a nutrient naturally found mainly in muscle tissue that provides the energy our muscles need to move and has been found to boost athletic performance during intense, short workouts.
Lysine plays an especially important role in the immune system. This amino acid is involved in the development of antibodies and has important antiviral properties. Lysine is also involved in protein biosynthesis, especially in building collagen together with the amino acids glycine and proline. Deficiency in this amino acid may result in fragile nails, broken skin, and in extreme cases, loss of hair.
Tryptophan possesses a remarkable array of applications for maintaining good physical and mental health. This can be traced to the fact that Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is necessary for growth and life, so it cannot be replaced by any mineral, vitamin, herb, or prescription chemical, and it cannot be made by your own physical body.
Antimicrobial properties – the latest studies have concluded that PP extracts contained antimicrobial properties. Different bacterial strains were killed by the extracts of PP. Some of the bacterial species are known to cause diseases in humans.
Hyperglycemic effect – research of the aqueous extract of PP leaves demonstrated a hyperglycemic effect, hinting a usefulness in controlling hypoglycemia that may be due to the excess of insulin or other hypoglycemic drugs.
Galactagogue properties – PP increases milk production in a lactating woman. A lactating mother should include Cajanus cajan in her daily diet. Moreover, the leaves and pulse, ground into a paste, warmed and applied on the breasts is also very beneficial to increase lactation. In addition, the high content of folate in the beans plays an important role in fetal development and the benefits for pregnant women and their offspring cannot be understated.
Anti-inflammatory properties – every part of the Cajanus cajan plant has been used in some form to cure inflammatory issues, including the seeds, leaves, and peas themselves. The organic substances found in PP can quickly reduce inflammation throughout the body. More exactly, a paste made from mashed PP is a popular traditional medicine for piles, frequently known as hemorrhoids.
Liver protection – these beans are also helpful in liver protection if we consume them on a regular basis. Studies concluded that when PP is given to test mice with liver disease, they showed a notable improvement in the condition. They are very effective not only in the healing process, but they also showed sustained liver protection when given daily.
Side effects of pigeon peas
There are no side effects on the consumption of PP if a proper cooking method is applied.
The cooking process of PP is very similar to pretty much all types of beans.
Place the dried beans in a colander and wash them. Run cool water over the beans for about 30 seconds. Place the beans in a large container; for each pound (2 cups) beans, add 10 cups of cold water. Cover and refrigerate for eight hours. Drain and rinse the beans with fresh and cool water.
Place the soaked beans in a large pot; cover with fresh water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer gently until the beans are tender but firm. Spices and herbs may be added any time. Also, add salt when beans are tender as it tends to toughen them. Serve the cooked beans.