Vicia hirsuta is an annual herb producing a slender, often four-sided, hairless to lightly hairy, climbing stem up to 70 to 90 centimeters tall, and known to well exceed one meter at times. The leaves are tipped with tendrils that support the plant as it climbs. The leaves are made up of several pairs of elongated leaflets each up to 2 centimeters in length with notched, flat, sharply pointed, or toothed tips. The inflorescence is a raceme of up to 8 flowers borne near the tip and often on one side only. Each flower is whitish or pale blue, just a few millimeters in length, and short-lived. The fruit is a legume pod up to a centimeter long by half a centimeter wide and hairy, often densely so. It is pale green to nearly black in color and contains usually two seeds.
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Succeeds in any well-drained soil in a sunny position if the soil is reliably moist throughout the growing season, otherwise it is best grown in semi-shade. Occasionally cultivated for its edible seed which is used as a lentil substitute. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby. When removing plant remains at the end of the growing season, it is best to only remove the aerial parts of the plant, leaving the roots in the ground to decay and release their nitrogen.
Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water and then sow in situ in spring or autumn.
Edible Uses: Seed – cooked. Used like lentils, the seed can be eaten as a staple food. Leaves and stems – cooked. Used as a vegetable
It is rarely used in medicine, but was given in a decoction made of milk, to drive out the small-pox and measles. Culpeper said: ‘Tares are rarely used in medicines, though the vulgar boil them in milk, and give the decoction to drive out the small-pox and measles.’
Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider
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