*Ark of Taste Heirloom*
(Lathyrus sativus) Sometimes it takes a while for things to come back into fashion. This unusual legume is said by some to be among the first cultivated food plants, predating even grain-based agriculture. Once a common peasant food in Central Italy, Cicerchia had fallen off the map a bit until interest was recently revived by Slow Food Italy and a presidium dedicated to its revival. And, get ready for it... there’s a festival held for it each November in the commune of Serra de’ Conti in the Marche (how many different harvest festivals could you possibly squeeze into one country?) Also known as Chickling Vetch, Grass Pea, Khesari, and Almorta, among other names, the legume has played an important role in the diets of drought prone regions of the Mediterranean, East Africa, and India for centuries as an “insurance crop” on account of its extreme drought tolerance. But therein lies the rub. When eaten daily for months as a primary protein source (such as during prolonged drought periods when it was the only surviving crop), it can cause irreversible nerve damage and even paralysis due to low concentrations of a compound, diaminopropionic acid, found in the seed. The disease is even named “Lathyrism” after the Latin name of the plant. Moderate consumption is not considered dangerous, however, and the bottom line is: Cicerchia is delicious, sometimes described as a cross between lentils and chickpeas: hearty and earthy, with tender skin. The “beans” are little angular white, pebbly things. They grow on 3-4 ft vines that appreciate a little support, but really need very little from you, as they are well suited to poor soil and general neglect. Sometimes grown as forage in India, they are also one of the best nitrogen-fixing cover crops known and can be an excellent component of crop rotation and soil building regimen. We encourage you to try this unusual and ancient food.
90 days. UO

Packet: 1/2oz (~60 seeds)

Product Code: BEA-CI-pkt

Availability:In stock

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Growing Info


Direct seed early Spring.

Note: Frost tolerant preferring cooler weather and well-drained, sandy soil. That said, they grow well in many types of soil including heavy clay. Avoid acidic soil.

Amazingly tolerant to drought.




Sow 6-8 seeds per linear foot, thinning plants to 3-6", in rows 12-18" apart.


10-15 days @ soil temp 50-70F


Full sun


Low to average. Tolerant to most soil types but prefers soil with a pH between 6.0-7 and are sensitive to acidity.


While not absolutely necessary, you may provide a short trellis to keep them upright.

They are one of the best nitrogen fixing cover crops known and can be an excellent component of crop rotation and soil building regimen.

Allow pods to dry on plant before harvesting.