Botanical name: Vicia species
Common name: Vetch, Poor Man's Peas, Bush Vetch, Common Vetch
Physical appearance: Small slender leaves, which grow in opposing pairs on a stem which ends with fine curling tendrils. The flowers turn into pea-like pods. These "peas" are toxic until cooked!!!! The purple flowered Vetches are all edible, so look for these. Avoid any Vetches whose flowers form a crown or any Vetches that have obvious, long hairs.
Edible parts: Leaves, flowers and if cooked properly, the peas.
Best places to find: Around woodlands and hedgerows.
Time of year: March to October
Serving suggestion: If collected when green and fresh, the "peas" can boiled briefly like standard variety garden peas. If the peas are dry, they are mildly toxic and will need to be thoroughly boiled/cooked before consumption (like most dried beans e.g. kidney beans). You will need to soak them overnight and then boil them for at least 10 minutes.
The Vetch's flowers and top leaves are good for leafy salads. Take only the topmost 3 inches (the newest growth).
NB!!! There are many varieties of Vetch, many of which can be highly toxic to both humans and ruminants. Please be absolutely sure of what you are picking. Again, avoid any Vetches with obvious hairs or those whose flowers form a crown.
(Above - a "hairy" non edible variety of Vetch).
Photos courtesy of Wikipedia and wildfooduk.com