- Major entries:
- Lathyrus montanus Bernh. Bitter Vetch. Heath Pea. Mountain Pea.
- Lathyrus sativus Linn. Chickling Vetch.
- Lathyrus tuberosus Linn. Dutch Mice. Earthnut Pea.
Lathyrus aphaca Linn. Leguminosae. Yellow-Plowered Pea.
Europe and the Orient. The seeds, according to Lindley, are served sometimes at table while young and tender but if eaten abundantly in the ripe state are narcotic, producing severe headache.
Lathyrus cicera Linn. Lesser Chick-Pea. Vetch.
Europe and the Orient. This species is an annual with red flowers, occasionally grown in the south of Europe for its peas, but these are of inferior quality and are said sometimes to be very unwholesome. Vetches were carried to the West Indies by Columbus, says Pickering, but their cultivation at the present day seems unknown in America.
Lathyrus magellanicus Lam. Cape Horn Pea.
Magellan region. The Cape Horn pea was eaten by the sailors of Lord Anson in default of better vegetables but is inferior to the worst sort of cultivated pea.
Lathyrus maritimus Bigel. Heath Pea. Seaside Pea.
North America and Europe. The seeds are very bitter. In 1555, the people of a portion of Suffolk County, England, suffering from famine, supported themselves to a great extent by the seeds of this plant.
Europe and northern Asia. Bitter vetch is a native of Europe and the adjoining portion of Asia and has been cultivated on a small scale in kitchen gardens in Britain. The Highlanders of Scotland have great esteem for the tubercles of the roots; they dry and chew them to give a better relish to their whiskey. In some parts of Scotland a spirit is extracted from them. The tubers are sweet in taste and very nutritious and are sometimes boiled and eaten. In Holland and Flanders, the peas are roasted and served as chestnuts. According to Sprengel, the peas are eaten in Sweden and form an article of commerce. In England, the plant is called heath pea.
Lathyrus ochrus DC.
Mediterranean countries. This is a species of pea mentioned as cultivated by Phanias of Eresusl and Clemens Alexandrinus. It is enumerated among the esculent plants of Egypt by Alpinus. Perhaps this is the pea exhumed by Dr. Schliemann in a carbonized state from the ruins of ancient Greece.
Europe, north Africa and the Orient. This vetch is an annual forage herb, the pods of which are available for culinary purposes. It is superior, according to Langethal, to vetches in quality of fodder and seed but is less productive. The flour from the peas makes a pleasant bread but is unwholesome; its use in the seventeenth century was forbidden in Wurtemburg by law. The peasants, however, eat it boiled or mixed with wheat flour in the quantity of one-fourth without any harm. In many parts of France the seed is used in soups.
This, in many regions, is a forage-plant rather than a vegetable; but in the south and Southwest parts of Europe, as in Italy and Spain and also in Turkey and India, it is grown for the use of the seed in soups, as well as in the manner of green peas. This vetch has been cultivated in southern Europe from a remote period and is mentioned by Columella and Palladius. According to Heuze, it came from Spain into France in 1640; but this must refer to some variety, for it appears to have been well known to the herbalists of the sixteenth century, as Dodonaeus, 1556, and others. It was included among American vegetables by Burr, 1863, who mentions two varieties, the one with dun, the other with white, seeds. This latter form was mentioned by Bauhin, 1623.
Northern Old World and Uralian plains. In Holland, Don says, the plant is cultivated for its roots, which are eaten there. Johnson says in Holland and Germany the roots are roasted as food. Pallas says they are eaten by the Kalmucks. These tubers are small but amylaceous and are sometimes called Dutch mice.
The plant is now included among vegetables for the garden by Vilmorin, although he says it is scarcely ever cultivated, but that the tubers are often collected from the wild plant in France. Burr likewise includes this species among American garden plants but we know not upon what authority. In 1783, Bryant says this French weed was cultivated in Holland for its roots, which were carried to market. In Siberia, the tubers are said to be much relished by the Tartars. They are used in Germany. It can scarcely be considered a plant of culture.