Pigeon peas are both a food crop (dried peas, flour, or green vegetable peas) and a forage/cover crop. They contain high levels of protein and the important amino acids methionine, lysine, and tryptophan. In combination with cereals, pigeon peas make a well-balanced human food. The dried peas may be sprouted briefly, then cooked, for a flavor different from the green or dried peas. Sprouting also enhances the digestibility of dried pigeon peas via the reduction of indigestible sugars that would otherwise remain in the cooked dried peas.
In India, split pigeon peas (toor dal) also called Togari bele in Kannada are one of the most popular pulses, being an important source of protein in a mostly vegetarian diet. In regions where it grows, fresh young pods are eaten as a vegetable in dishes such as sambar. In Ethiopia, not only the pods, but also the young shoots and leaves are cooked and eaten.
In some places, such as the Dominican Republic, Panama and Hawaii, pigeon peas are grown for canning and consumption. A dish made of rice and green pigeon peas (called moro de guandules) is a traditional food in the Dominican Republic. Pigeon peas are also made as a stew, with plantain balls. In Puerto Rico arroz con gandules is made with rice and pigeon peas and is a typical dish. Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada have their own variant, called pelau, which includes either beef or chicken, and occasionally pumpkin and pieces of cured pig tail.
In Thailand, pigeon peas are grown as a host for scale insects which produce lac.
Pigeon peas are in some areas an important crop for green manure, providing up to 40 kg nitrogen per hectare. The woody stems of pigeon peas can also be used as firewood, fencing and thatch.
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