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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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Lupin an annual or biennial leguminous plant of the genus Lupinus in the pea family. Many lupins are grown for their flowers, but the seeds of certain species, although bitter and toxic when fresh, can be soaked in salted water or boiled to make them edible. The Mediterranean lupins (L. albus, L. angustifolius) are less toxic than the truly bitter varieties and there have been developed, since the 1920s, low-alkaloid, ‘sweet’ lupin plants that can be used with no preliminaries.

Lupins have been an important food, especially of the poor, in the Mediterranean region since classical times. They were also much used as a fodder plant and soil improver. The English traveller Henry Matthews noted in 1818 that farmers he met on his way from Rome to Florence subsisted for the most part on ‘a mess of lupini boiled up in a little broth, and washed down with a very weak sour wine’.