Bush Vetch, Vicia sepium
One of Arthur's favourites, Bush Vetch is one of many Vetch species, all of which, are members of the pea and clover family. It can be found scrambling through many different habitats, including woodland edges, rough grassland, and roadside verges. Bush vetch is a climbing plant, with ladder-like leaves that are arranged in pairs on either side of the stem and branched tendrils used for climbing and grasping often spiral from the ends. Lilac flowers appear between April and November and youngest of these, along with the leaf shoots and tips from the top part (approx 8 cm) of the plant are absolutely delicious, tasting of super-sweet pea shoots. This is, however, not a plant to eat in large quantities, as older parts of the plant, including the pea pods and peas they produce, do contain mild toxins that increase over time - just a nibble of the freshest parts, here and there, as a pretty garnish for a homemade dish, or scattered through a salad, is best.
Bush Vetch Checklist
🐑 Grassland, including paddocks, fields and meadows.
🌳 Deciduous Woodland clearings and edges.
🌊 Waterways, including rivers, lakes and streams.
🏡 Urban Green Spaces, including scrubland, parks and gardens.
🚜 Hedgerows, including field edges.
🌸🌞🍂 Apr - Oct
☘️ Oval to spear-shaped, green and arranged in pairs along the stems.
🌷 Pretty pink-purple, pea-like flowers with deeper purple patterning. The flowers fade, first to pale blue and then to whitish as they age.
🌱 Thin, ribbed and green. Curly branched tendrils form at the ends, allowing the plant to climb.
Fruit / Seeds
🍏 After flowering small green pea pods form on the stems and turn black when ripe. Each pod contains 3-10 small black peas. These should not be eaten.
Aroma / Taste
👃 Flowers have a Floral Aroma
👅 The flowers and freshest green shoots are a wonderful combination of fresh peas and sweetness.
🟨 ID Difficulty - Novice
👀 The distinctive pea-like purple flowers and twirly tendrils are key identifiers of this plant.
⛔️ Like many another members of the pea family, vetches contain compounds that are toxic in large amounts. The toxins in vetch tend to accumulate in older parts of the plant, including the pea pods and peas they produce.
✅ Limit your intake of vetch and only eat the freshest flowers and shoots (from the top 8cm of each stem).
⛔️ This plant could be confused with other Vetch species, such as Hairy Vetch, which are more toxic.
✅ To avoid confusion and to keep safe with vetches, stick to those with purple flowers growing ALONG the flower stem and not in a ‘crown’ on the top. Avoid very hairy vetches, even the purple ones.
🥗 Salad - fresh shoots can be eaten raw and added to salads.
🌺 Garnish - Fresh flowers can be used as a garnish.
🍓 Yummy - A tasty forage snack! The flowers are delightful when eaten straight from the plant.