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Jun 1, 2009 11:15 AM

The Edibility of a Pea Found in the Yard

So I've noticed this vine-like plant that's been growing around the yard somewhat like a weed (it probably is). On it, I see what resembles snowpeas growing but only smaller. They are usually about an inch long and sometimes an inch and a half. After that, they turn really dark purple and dry up and when you "crush" them between your fingers, they snap open and twist apart all while throwing their peas/seeds a couple inches around. I'm curious as to whether or not they are safe to eat? And what are they? Thanks!

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  1. .Are the flowers its producing large (normal pea sized) and pinky purple and the mature dried "peas" sorta greyish with a lot of ridges and pits on the surface? if so that would be everlasting pea (Lathyrus latifolius)

    If the vine is gracile and delicate (i.e. kinda skinny and thread like) you proably have some sort of vetch (Vicia sp.). There are at least twenty or thirty different ones that could be found in this contry but staistically there are around three that will cover most of the lieky options. If the flowers (which shoud be dark bluish purple) and or pods are all clustered up at the tips of the stems and are in racemes (i.e. there's a whole ot of them clustered up) then what you've got is likely hairy vetch (V. Villosa). If the pods are single and the flowers (also single) are sort of middle purple, you may have common vetch (v. sativa). This normally doesn't grow well on its own but the seed somtimes hitchhikes over here in bulk foods (like beans and spices) and if someone throws thier leftovers out it can take root, Finally there is the four seeds vetch (V. tetrasperma) but that's not all that likely as its pods would be way too small to be mistaken for snow peas (I've never seen one longer than about .5 inches) and the wriong shape to boot (they're a little too squared off to be mistaken for snow peas). If you can get a picture of the flowers/pods and post it on the thread I can probably do a more accurate identification. My money is on the everlasting pea so far; most of the vetches just dont get pods that are 1-1.5 inces long.

    As to you second question eating any of the wild trailing legumes I've listed is a fairly bad idea. Most contain a lot of toxic glucosides. Domestic vetch (V. sativa) is, in theory marginally edible (It was grown as a food source in biblical times or more often as a fodder/green manure (it's one of the many plants that fall under the umbrella term of "tares") but ony on the order of half a cup of seed combined with a lot of other food and only eaten very intermittently. I would say the risk isn't worth it. If it is Everlasting pea or Hairy vetch, you may want to remove the plants as both are really really invasive. Common vetch and four seed spread a lot less seed grow a lot slower and are generally tame emough that they can be let alone until they become a problem.

    2 Replies
    1. re: jumpingmonk

      I probably have a vetch. And thanks for telling me not to eat it--I have been entertaining the thought of it for quite a while now.

      ...any chance you know whether Lamb's Ear is edible/safe to eat/tasty? I really like the fuzzyness, hahaha...

      Thanks again.

      1. re: wallabunny

        Not to my knowedge. According to herblore, the leaves make good bandages, though.

        Getting back to the legumes, I know of only of maybe four or five wild ones native to this contry that are edible. Ampicarpa (Hog peanut) is edible provied you only eat the cleostomagous (ie underground, asexually produced) seeds. American groundnut (Apios Americana) has edible tubers if you roast them (bit like Jicama) the seeds are edible too but, it's fairly rare to find a stand that's actually fertile and seed producing (at least up north it is) here's a link to some photos if your lucky.