Herb: Bitter Vetch

Latin name: Lathyrus linifolius montanus

Synonyms: Lathyrus macrorrhizus, Lathyrus montanus, Orobus tuberosus

Family: Leguminosae

Edible parts of Bitter Vetch:

Seed - cooked. Used as a vegetable, they are served in the same manner as sweet chestnuts. Some caution is advised in the use of this seed, see the notes above on toxicity. Root - cooked. Boiled or roasted, they have a sweet flavour and are very nutritious.

Description of the plant:


60 cm
(2 feet)

to July

Habitat of the herb:

Woods, hedges and thickets in hilly country avoiding chalk.

Propagation of Bitter Vetch:

Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water and then sow in early spring in a cold frame. 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. Division in spring. It may not transplant well so care should be taken.

Cultivation of the herb:

Woods, hedges and thickets in hilly country avoiding chalk.

Medicinal use of Bitter Vetch:

None known

Known hazards of Lathyrus linifolius montanus:

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.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.