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Pass the pigeon peas please!

It wasn’t difficult to persuade Senior writer LARA PICKFORD-GORDON to pay a visit to the annual Pigeon Peas Festival. Here’s her perspective.

Muffins made with pigeon peas

Pigeon peas doubles? Pigeon peas in wontons, in wine and in cake?

The versatility of this popular legume was on show and sale at the Sixth Annual Pigeon Peas Festival hosted by the Upper Cemetery Street Residents’ Association February 1 at the St John’s Parish Hall and grounds of the Diego Martin Girls’ RC. A craft market was incorporated into the event.

Lunch was available in the Parish Hall: pigeon peas chicken pelau and pigeon peas fish pelau or a meal of pigeon peas, stew pork or saltfish and dumplings.  Then there were pigeon peas bread, pigeon peas kurma, and accra incorporating pigeon peas.

At the girls’ school there was more on offer such as a combo with: pigeon peas wine, liqueur, fruit cake and muffin.

East Side Bakers had a menu of items using pigeon peas including puffs, pizza, pies, sweet bread and bread pudding.

Oui Cuisine’s curried pigeon peas wontons sold out early.

There was a line for FloJoe’s pigeon peas doubles.

Patrice Williams chats with Prime Minister Keith Rowley about her pigeon peas milk

Errol Joseph, a member of the organising committee said pigeon peas has always been a staple food in T&T. “What we did is take that staple and take it a little further which would mean we are now looking at value added products instead of pigeon peas soup and that kind of thing”.

He said the festival had grown over the six years. In an address for the festival’s opening he appealed for younger persons to get involved in the committee.

Patrice Williams has a BSc in Food Science. She used her knowledge to perfect her pigeon peas spiced muffin, chocolate muffins and pigeon peas milk.

“I am vegan so I started doing things for my own benefit and when I made certain things my sisters, my friends and family would say ‘this is seriously gluten free? This is seriously flourless?’. Their friends started to place orders and it grew.”

It took five years to get her recipes to a “consistency” and “texture” that people will savour and be “comparable to the flour-based stuff but healthy”.

President, PM visit

Diego Martin parish priest Fr Christopher Lumsden inquires at one of the booths

Among the attendees were President Paula-Mae Weekes and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. The PM sampled pigeon peas leaf, moringa, ginger, bay leaf and orange peel tea created by Michelle Barton-Romeo aka ‘Madame Moringa’.

He told the Catholic News, “you must try it…it has a long list of attributes…I like to explore the new…”

It was then a woman approached inviting him to try her pigeon peas soup. PM Rowley enquired if she had the “real” pigeon peas soup-with pigtail. She did. PM Rowley said there was “good potential” in the produce on display. He referred to a booth with desiccated products for culinary and medicinal use.

PM Rowley added, “You might have an ailment of some kind or a discomfort and you know of a herb but if it is prepared like that it has a long shelf life so you can have it when you need it.”

Pigoen peas liqueur

Growing up in Mason Hall he said some herbal medicines did work and research has been able to identify the “effective parts” of herbs.

PM Rowley observed that traditional items like ginger could be “big news” for people now discovering its uses and mass producing. He added, “for those of us who grew up with it those are household items but because it is not used by the next generation after a while you lose it”.

He said events like the festival expose young people and “allows some continuation and…. passing on”.