The cultivation of Guandu goes back at least 3000 years. The centre of origin is most likely India, from where it travelled to East Africa and by means of the slave trade to America. They found Guandu grains in the tombs of the Pyramid workers. It is a very sturdy bush that grows from seeds in poor soil, which will be improved in two ways, first by nitrogen that the plant takes from the air and fixes in the soil thereby fertilizing it; second its deep penetrating root system breaks hard soil thereby facilitating water penetration and aeration. These features of Guandu bushes make them good companions to other plants or trees that need lots of nitrogen in the soil. Guandu bushes need very little water so they grow well in dry climates, they like direct sun light. Guandu come in three main colors, green, beige and black, they are sold fresh, dried or canned. They cook quickly (30 minutes) and have a nutty taste. It is possible to germinate the grains for eating raw in salads or make them more digestible after cooking, germinated Guandu have a somewhat blander taste but vegetarians really like them. To learn about germinating grains see the following link: Sprouting Seeds

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Cajanus cajan

ENGLISH NAME: Pigeon pea, from its frequent use as poultry feed in 19th century USA.

LOCAL NAMES: Guandu (Panama, Colombia), Gandul (Puerto Rico), Guandul (Dominican Republic), Gungo Pea(Jamaica), Quinchoncho (Venezuela), Andu (Brazil)

PRODUCTS: Canned Guandu, Guandu flour is produced in some countries as animal feed.

PROCESSING: Guandu grains are usually sold already shelled, however if you happen to grow your own, which is very easy, you should pick the bean pods when they are light in color and look somewhat dry. You shell the grains out by pressing the pods with your fingers.

STORING: Dried Guandu will keep forever in a cool dry place if you fend off the bugs, and you can do this by placing some hot chilies in the grain, in India they would place leaves and branches from the Neem tree, which is sometimes found in Latin America. Guandu grains are available all year round, but towards the end of the year demands increases and so does the price, but you can buy them fresh before November and freeze them, they will keep well.

 NUTRIENTS: Guandu is in the same family as the Soy bean (Fabaceae) and as such is rich in protein. It is one of those foods that is very complete, one could survive a long time eating only Guandu. The fresh grain is very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Dietary Fiber, Protein, Thiamin, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Copper, and a very good source of Folate and Manganese. For a complete nutrients analysis follow this link: Nutrients in Pigeon Peas

ARROZ CON GUANDU (Rice with Guandu): Very typical dish in Panama and Puerto Rico. First prepare a sofrito (fried mixture of seasonings) by frying in 4 tablespoons of oil, 2 tablespoons each of chopped onions, sweet chilies (aji dulce) or bell peppers, 2 chopped cloves  garlic, fry until flavors and aroma are released, about 5 minutes, some people add a little chopped bacon to the sofrito for extra flavor; add 1 cup of fresh Guandu and stir for 2 minutes in the sofrito; add 1 cup of water and salt to taste, cover and cook the Guandu for no more than 20 minutes over medium heat until slightly tender, not completely tender since additional cooking will be required for the rice; add 1 cup of rice and 1.5 cups of water; increase heat to high until waters boils then lower heat to low, cover and cook for no more than 20 minutes; turn off heat and let rest covered for at least 10 minutes before serving. Mold the rice with a cup of coffee for serving and spray fresh chopped cilantro over it. It goes well with saucy preparations of chicken, beef or pork.

GUANDU DIP: Veggies will love this dip loaded with proteins and antioxidants. Boil 3 cups of fresh Guandu in salt water until tender, about 30 minutes or you could use canned Guandu, reserve; prepare an escabeche ( cooked acid marinade) with 1 cup chopped onions, 1/2 cup of chopped sweet red chilies or peppers, 6 mashed cloves of garlic, 8 whole black peppercorns, 1 cup of olive oil, 1/4 cup of white vinegar, 1 teaspoon of spiced salt (Adobo) or to taste, 2 Bay leaves, mix in a pan and cook until flavors and aroma are released, about 8 minutes, do not overcook; add the Guandu and stir for some 5 minutes, turn off the heat and let cool; remove the Bay leaves and mash or blend half of the mixture and remix with the other half, add a little hot sauce or to taste and spray with chopped fresh cilantro, serve with crackers, plantain chips (my favorite) or raw vegetables.

GUANDU EN ESCABECHE: This is like a salad and goes well as a first course over a bed of lettuce or as a side for fish. Boil 3 cups of fresh Guandu in salt water until tender, about 30 minutes, let cool and reserve or you could use canned Guandu; prepare a simple escabeche with 1 cup chopped onions, 4 chopped cloves of garlic, 6 whole black peppercorns, 3/4 cup of olive oil, 1/4 cup of white vinegar, 2 Bay leaves, mix in a pan and cook until flavors and aroma are released, about 8 minutes, do not overcook and let cool before using; In a salad bowl place the cooked Guandu with 1/2 cup each of chopped fresh red pepper and cilantro, add a few drops of hot sauce and salt to taste, mix the escabeche sauce and toss well to coat the Guandu, chill and serve over some lettuce.

GUANDU AND YUCCA SCRAMBLE: This a typical recipe from northeast Brazil, it is delicious side for grilled meats and it can be used as a stuffing for poultry. In Brazil they use pork rinds (chicharrones) but if you can not find them you can use 2 cups (1/2 Lb) of fresh coarsely chopped pork fried to a crisp in 4 tablespoons of oil, the leftover oil can be used for the recipe. Boil 3 cups of fresh Guandu in salt water until tender, about 30 minutes, let cool and reserve or you could use canned Guandu; Cook enough Yucca for a finely chopped cup, about half a root, you can cook the Yucca with the guandu until it is tender enough to chop; in a big pot heat 4 tablespoons of oil, fry 1/2 cup of chopped bacon until almost golden, add 1 cup of chopped onions, 4 chopped cloves of garlic, 1 hot chili seeded and finely chopped (aji habanero or chombo are my favorite), stir until onions are tender; add the cooked Guandu and stir to acquire the flavors; turn heat off, add 1 cup of coarsely crushed pork rinds or chopped crispy pork, add 1 cup of finely chopped Yucca , add 1 cup of chopped green onions, salt and pepper to taste and toss well. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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