Toxic parts


?-N-Oxalyl-L-?,?-diaminopropionic acid, ODAP, BOAA moderate toxicity

The seed contains variable amounts of a neurotoxic amino acid ?-N-Oxalyl-L-?,?-diaminopropionic acid or ODAP or BOAA[8]. ODAP is considered as the cause of the disease neurolathyrism, a neurodegenerative disease that causes paralysis of the lower body: emaciation of Gluteal muscle (buttocks). The seed is said to be safe and very nutritious in small quantities, but should not comprise more than 30% of the diet[9][10]. The disease has been seen to occur after famines in Europe (France, Spain, Germany), North Africa, South Asia, and is still prevalent in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Afghanistan (pan handle) when Lathyrus seed is the exclusive or main source of nutrients for extended periods. Research has shown that ODAP concentration increases in plants grown under stressful conditions, typical at the time of the failure of other crops, compounding the problem[8].

There have been recent successful efforts to breed hybrids of Lathyrus sativus with lower levels of the toxic amino acids[11] to facilitate it's safe use as a famine crop.

Edible uses

Leaves, Shoots, Seedpods

Cooked as a Vegetable

Young shoots, leaves and seedpods can be eated cooked as a vegetable[1][2].


Dried, Soaked, Cooked as a Vegetable, Legume, Protein

The mature seed is eaten cooked[3][4][5][2]. It needs to be soaked and well cooked before being eaten[6]. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.

Dried, Ground as a Flour

The mature, dried seed can be ground into a powder and mixed with wheat in a ratio of 1:3 of wheat flour to make a protein-enhanced bread[3][2]. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.

Cooked as a Vegetable

The immature seed can be eaten like green peas[3][4][2].

Material uses

There are no material uses listed for Lathyrus sativus.

Medicinal uses(Warning!)



The oil from the seeds is a powerful and dangerous cathartic[7].


Ecosystem niche/layer


Ecological Functions

Green manure

Earth stabiliser

Nitrogen fixer


Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Division in spring. It may not transplant well so care should be taken[12].


Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water and then sow in early spring in a cold frame[12]. 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[12].


An easily grown plant, succeeding in any moderately good garden soil but preferring a position in full sun[12]. 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[12]. 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.




Lathyrus sativus seeds.JPG

When the seedpods begin to dry, they can be picked or the entire plant can be harvested and left to dry. Once dried, they should be shelled to remove the seed for storage.


The seed, once dried, can be stored for a number of years.

Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Lathyrus sativus. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Lathyrus sativus.




None listed.


None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Binomial name
Lathyrus sativus
Imported References
Medicinal uses
Material uses & Functions
Edible uses
  • Leaves Shoots Seedpods (Vegetable)
  • Seed (Vegetable Legume Protein)
  • Seed (Flour)
  • Seed (Vegetable)
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
  • Oil (Cathartic)
Functions & Nature
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
full sun
no shade
Soil PH
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
  • Drought
Native Climate Zones
None listed.
Adapted Climate Zones
None listed.
Native Geographical Range
None listed.
Native Environment
None listed.
Ecosystem Niche
Root Zone Tendancy
None listed.
Deciduous or Evergreen
Herbaceous or Woody
Life Cycle
Growth Rate
Mature Size
0.6 x
Flower Colour
blue, indigo, violet
Flower Type


  1. ? 1.01.1 Brouk. B. Plants Consumed by Man. Academic Press ISBN 0-12-136450-x (32202/01/01)
  2. ? Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications ISBN 0-9628087-0-9 (32202/01/01)
  3. ? Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World. Dover Publications ISBN 0-486-20459-6 (32202/01/01)
  4. ? Vilmorin. A. The Vegetable Garden. Ten Speed Press ISBN 0-89815-041-8 ()
  5. ? 5.05.1 Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim (32202/01/01)
  6. ? 6.06.1 Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable ISBN 0094579202 (32202/01/01)
  7. ? 7.07.1 Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C. Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement). Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi. (32202/01/01)
  8. ? [Lathyrus sativus] Wikipedia (2013/07/13)
  9. ? Frohne. D. and Pf?nder. J. A Colour Atlas of Poisonous Plants. Wolfe ISBN 0723408394 (32202/01/01)
  10. ? Cooper. M. and Johnson. A. Poisonous Plants in Britain and their Effects on Animals and Man. HMSO ISBN 0112425291 (32202/01/01)
  11. ? [Grass Pea] Crop Trust (2013/07/13)
  12. ? Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (32202/01/01)
  13. ? Tanaka. T. Tanaka's Cyclopaedia of Edible Plants of the World. Keigaku Publishing (32202/01/01)

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