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Lathyrus sativus - L.

Common Name Chickling Pea, White pea
Family Fabaceae or Leguminosae
USDA hardiness Coming soon
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    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (1 of 5)
Moist Soil Full sun
Lathyrus sativus Chickling Pea, White pea

Lathyrus sativus Chickling Pea, White pea


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Lathyrus sativus is a ANNUAL growing to 0.6 m (2ft). It is in flower from June to July, and the seeds ripen from August to September. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects.
It can fix Nitrogen.
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.



 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.


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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].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Lathyrus alatus 10
Lathyrus aphacaYellow-Flowered Pea11
Lathyrus ciceraChickling Vetch, Red pea10
Lathyrus davidii 10
Lathyrus japonicusBeach Pea, Smallflower beach pea20
Lathyrus japonicus maritimusBeach Pea20
Lathyrus latifoliusPerennial Sweet Pea, Perennial pea10
Lathyrus linifolius montanusBitter Vetch20
Lathyrus nervosusLord Anson's Pea20
Lathyrus ochroleucasCream Peavine11
Lathyrus ochrusCyprus Vetch10
Lathyrus odoratusSweet Pea, Wild Pea,Vetchling10
Lathyrus ornatusBush Vetchling11
Lathyrus palustrisSlenderstem Peavine, Marsh pea10
Lathyrus polymorphusManystem Peavine, Hoary pea10
Lathyrus pratensisMeadow Vetchling01
Lathyrus quinquenervius 10
Lathyrus tuberosusEarthnut Pea, Tuberous sweetpea50


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Botanical References


Links / References

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Readers comment

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.

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

Heidi C.   Thu May 22 2008

Are the flower blossoms of Lathyrus Sativus edible ?

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

Dirk Enneking   Sun Jun 21 2009

Lathyrus bibliography

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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