(Tetragonolobus purpureus or Lotus tetragonolobus – Family Leguminosae)
Asparagus Pea, winged pea, winged bean
The asparagus pea is indigenous to the Mediterranean region of Europe and the Near East, but now cultivated in Western Europe almost exclusively as a connoisseur’s vegetable.
The edible pods contain small amounts of protein, carbohydrates, fiber, and iron. They can reach a length of about two inches.
The four-sided, light green pods have ruffled edges, giving it a frilly, or winged look. When quickly sautéed whole, the young pods have a flavour reminiscent of asparagus.
The dried, roasted seeds were once used as a coffee substitute.
It is considered a wildflower of the open fields and wastelands of the Mediterranean countries, arriving in Britain with imported grain.
Its cultivation is recorded before 1569, and was noted for its dark crimson, pea-like flowers. Only later were its edible merits discovered, but they never became popular.
The winged pea (T. purpureus) has often been confused with the winged bean (Psophocarpus tetragonolobus), partly because of the English common names. There are other plants in the same genus with similar characteristics.