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What exactly is a pigeon pea?

sushigirlie Mar 20, 2011 04:52 PM

I've seen lots of different peas called pigeon peas. Some look like black-eyed peas. Others are round yellow peas. Still others are brown. Do they all taste the same? Are they all related?

  1. n
    nafrate Mar 20, 2011 08:28 PM

    It depend on whether they're whole or split, and if they are skinned.

    Whole pigeon peas look like the black eyed pea type usually. The split skinned variety look like split mung beans kind of. Here's a picture comparing whole vs split:


    Also, there are 2 different varieties of the same species of pigeon peas, which is why there are different looking whole pigeon peas.

    1 Reply
    1. re: nafrate
      sushigirlie Mar 20, 2011 08:35 PM


    2. hypomyces Mar 20, 2011 05:31 PM

      Pigeon peas are often used in Indian cooking as a split dried pea. They are known as Toor (Tur) Dal. Google it. They are great as a cooked bean. Another use is as a spice in a powder blend. A goog example is Kandi Podi
      I've only used them in Indian food...can't wait to see what others do with 'em.

      11 Replies
      1. re: hypomyces
        chefj Mar 20, 2011 05:40 PM

        Used all over the Caribbean Islands and in African cooking.

        1. re: hypomyces
          sushigirlie Mar 20, 2011 05:46 PM

          Thanks. I just cooked toor dal. But nobody has answered my specific question regarding the vast difference in appearance among whole "pigeon peas." Here are pictures of peas referred to as pigeon peas.


          1. re: sushigirlie
            chefj Mar 20, 2011 06:02 PM

            Did you read the Wiki page? I really do not think you will get a more thorough explanation than what is printed there.

            1. re: sushigirlie
              hypomyces Mar 20, 2011 06:48 PM

              There may be regional differences as to the physical aspect of the bean (taste as well). Indian dals are husked, so mabey the big difference is with the whole bean
              ChefJ said they are used all over the Caribbean and in African cooking as well....There may be a difference between the bean found in Africa and the bean in the Caribbean..I do not know...
              So I guess I've not 'Bean' much help!

              1. re: hypomyces
                chefj Mar 20, 2011 07:06 PM

                OOOOh. Bean puns ( - :
                As I said above there is a great explanation on the Wikipage, If is is not enough info for Sushigirli I am sure she can do a search herself and find tons more.

                1. re: chefj
                  hypomyces Mar 20, 2011 07:13 PM

                  'Bean' there, done that!

                  1. re: chefj
                    sushigirlie Mar 20, 2011 07:20 PM

                    I read the WIki page before I posted here. It doesn't answer my questions.

                  2. re: hypomyces
                    sushigirlie Mar 20, 2011 07:22 PM

                    I think you're right that part of the difference is some are skinned. I think the tan ones that look like black-eyed peas still have the skin on, and the green ones are skinned. But here's what I can't figure out: Toor dal is yellow, but I have yet to see a whole yellow pigeon pea. I've searched Google Images. The only whole yellow peas called "pigeon peas" that I've found are mis-named chickpeas.

                    Edit: It may be that the green ones have skins as well; that they're just a different color than the tan ones; and that pigeon peas aren't commonly sold skinned and whole.

                    1. re: sushigirlie
                      nafrate Mar 20, 2011 08:38 PM

                      The skinned version is toor daal, whereas the whole pigeon pea is a different color because it retains its skin.

                      For this same reason, black daal (urad) is black in its whole form and cream colored when skinned and split.

                      1. re: nafrate
                        sushigirlie Mar 20, 2011 09:02 PM

                        Will you shed more light on the two varieties of pigeon peas you mention below? What makes them different, what cuisines are they used in, etc.?

                        1. re: sushigirlie
                          nafrate Mar 20, 2011 09:37 PM

                          I've used them primarily in Indian cooking. From what I know, the differences are just aesthetic and the two varieties can be used interchangeably.

              2. chefj Mar 20, 2011 05:15 PM

                It is well explained here, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pigeon_pea

                1 Reply
                1. re: chefj
                  zzDan Mar 20, 2011 10:06 PM

                  Pigeon peas figure into Hispanic cuisines. I had a Puerto Rican neighbor who grew some. They are unique being a bushy perennial. The bush lives for a few years. IIRC his died off after 4 years so then he planted more

                  All other peas and beans I know off.....the plant grows....your harvest the beans and then it dies so you plow it under.

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