Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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vetch a general name for about 150 species of leguminous plants of the genus Vicia, of which the best known is the broad bean. Other species are mainly grown for animal food, for example, French or Narbonne vetch, V. narbonensis, in the south of Europe.

In classical times both Greeks and Romans liked to eat the seeds of the bitter vetch, V. ervilia, remains of which have also been found in excavations at Troy. The species is, or was in the 19th century, cultivated in Afghanistan. Common vetch, V. sativa, includes a variety, ‘bigpod’ vetch, which has seeds as large as peas and is eaten in Algeria.