Grass pea (Lathyrus sativus L.) is a hardy, cool-weather adapted legume that is cultivated in India, Africa, the Middle East, and South America. It is harvested primarily as a dry, mature seed, although young leaves and immature pods are edible. Grass pea is quite tolerant of limited moisture and does well in nutrient-poor soils; thus, in times of drought it is one of the few legumes that produces a harvest, and it is widely consumed by low-income populations during times of famine. Unfortunately, excessive or prolonged consumption of grass pea can lead to lathyrism, a debilitating muscle paralysis that is caused by a neurotoxin in the seeds.
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