Grass Pea

Grass pea ( Lathyrus sativus )

The grass pea apparently originated in Southern Europe. Archaeological studies have revealed the existence of grass pea seeds in Bihar around 2000 BC (Mehra, 2000). In Sanskrit, the grass pea is called triputa or khandika. It is called khesari in Hindi, Bengali, and Oriya, lakh in Marathi, khesari parippu in Tamil, and lanka pappu in Telugu. The fact that the Sanskrit names have not been used in Indian languages confirms that the origin of grass pea is outside the Indian subcontinent. It seems the name khesari comes from the saffron-colored seed. The Ain-i-Akbari (1590 AD) mentions kisari as a pulse resembling the pea (vegetative growth?), which is eaten by the poor but is “unwholesome” (Blochmann, 1873). The Bhavaprakash, written around the same time as the Ain-i-Akbari, specifically mentions “lameness and paralysis” due to grass pea grain consumption (Chunekar and Pandey, 1998). Thus, what we call lathyrism today was known in India at least 400 years ago.