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Lathyrus sativus - L.                
Common Name Chickling Pea, White pea
Family Fabaceae or Leguminosae
Known Hazards The seed contains a toxic amino-acid which, in large quantities, can cause a very serious disease of the nervous system known as 'lathyrism'. The seed is said to be perfectly safe and very nutritious in small quantities, but should not comprise more than 30% of the diet[65, 76].
Habitats Found as a weed of cultivated land though this is as a relict of cultivation, the plant is not known in a truly wild state[93].
Range The original habitat is obscure, possibly S. Europe.
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Moist Soil Full sun


Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of flower
Lathyrus sativus is a ANNUAL growing to 0.6 m (2ft). It is in flower from Jun to July, and the seeds ripen from Aug to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.It can fix Nitrogen.

USDA hardiness zone : Coming soon

Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

Lathyrus sativus Chickling Pea, White pea
Lathyrus sativus Chickling Pea, White pea
 Cultivated Beds;
Edible Uses                                         
Edible Parts: Leaves;  Seed;  Seedpod.
Edible Uses:

The immature seed can be eaten like green peas[2, 27, 183]. The mature seed is eaten cooked[2, 27, 46, 183]. It needs to be soaked and well cooked before being eaten[61]. The seed can also be ground into a powder and mixed with wheat in a ratio of one part vetch to 3 parts of wheat flour to make a protein-enhanced bread[2, 183]. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity. Young seedpods - cooked[105, 142, 183]. Young shoots - cooked[142, 183].
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.


The oil from the seeds is a powerful and dangerous cathartic[240].
Other Uses
Green manure;  Soil stabilization.

The plant has an extensive root system and fixes atmospheric nitrogen through bacteria that live on the roots. It makes a good soil-enriching green manure crop or can be planted for erosion control[200].
Cultivation details                                         
An easily grown plant, succeeding in any moderately good garden soil but preferring a position in full sun[200]. The chickling pea is cultivated for its edible seed in India and the Middle East[61], but see notes above on toxicity. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[200]. When removing plant remains at the end of the growing season, it is best to only remove the aerial parts of the plant, leaving the roots in the ground to decay and release their nitrogen.
Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water and then sow in early spring in a cold frame[200]. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the summer. If you have sufficient seed, then it can also be sown in situ in mid spring[200]. Division in spring. It may not transplant well so care should be taken[200].
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Expert comment                                         
Botanical References                                         
Links / References                                         

[2]Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
[27]Vilmorin. A. The Vegetable Garden.
A reprint of a nineteenth century classic, giving details of vegetable varieties. Not really that informative though.
[46]Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants.
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
[61]Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man.
Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.
[93]Davis. P. H. Flora of Turkey.
Not for the casual reader, this is an immense work in many volumes. Some details of plant uses and habitats.
[105]Tanaka. T. Tanaka's Cyclopaedia of Edible Plants of the World.
The most comprehensive guide to edible plants I've come across. Only the briefest entry for each species, though, and some of the entries are more than a little dubious. Not for the casual reader.
[142]Brouk. B. Plants Consumed by Man.
Readable but not very comprehensive.
[183]Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[240]Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C. Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement).
Very terse details of medicinal uses of plants with a wide range of references and details of research into the plants chemistry. Not for the casual reader.

Readers comment                                         
Elizabeth H.
Fernand Lambein Tue Feb 11 14:04:25 2003
The common name of Lathyrus sativus in Ethiopia is guaya. In India it has many names, the main one is Khesari.
Elizabeth H.
Fernand Lambein Tue Feb 11 13:19:12 2003
Lathyrus sativus L. is most commonly called 'grass pea'. It has specific common names in most European languages: Graes-Fladbaelg in Danish, Zaailathyrus in Dutch, Forskolm in Norwegian, Ervilha quadrada in Portuguese, Almorta, guija or muela in Spanish, Plattvial in Swedish, Peltonatkelma in Finnish, Pois-carré, gesse cultivée or gesse commun in French, Saat-Platterbse or Platterbse in German, Laturi in Greek and Cicerchia in Italian. I guess this indicates ancient agronomic uses of the plant. In Ethiopia it is a survival food for the poor subsistence farmers. After a drought triggered famine, epidemics of the crippling neurolathyrism occur, the latest epidemic was in 1997-98. Ref.: Nettox list of food plants, Danish veterinary and food Administration,1998. Getahun H. et al.: Epidemic of neurolathyrism in Ethiopia, Lancet 354, 1999, 306-307

Link: The Lathyrus lathyrism Newsletter

Elizabeth H.
Heidi C. Thu May 22 2008
Are the flower blossoms of Lathyrus Sativus edible ?
Elizabeth H.
malick fiaz Tue Mar 31 2009
I want to know about the composition of husk of lathyrus sativus. would you help me to find out its husk composition. I am very thankful to you.... Fiaz Ahmad
Elizabeth H.
Dirk Enneking Sun Jun 21 2009

Lathyrus bibliography

Nellie M.
Detoxification of lathyrus sativus K. Jahan and K. Ahmad, Institute of Nutrition, Dhaka University, Dhaka, Bangladesh Ascorbic acid can sometimes revert the symptoms of Lathyrism. The neurotoxin in L. s. (ODAP) can easily be destroyed by soaking the seeds in lime water overnight prior to boiling. Jun 1 2012 12:00AM
Detoxification of lathyrus sativus
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