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Plant of the day: Vicia sativa (common Vetch)

This annual wildflower has spread into the wild having been grown for centuries as livestock fodder. It is also used as green manure due to its ability to grow quickly and produce its own nitrates, making it a useful fertiliser.
The pea-shaped flowers, 10-18mm long, usually appear single or in pairs, on stems containing 4-7 pairs of narrow leaflets. The upper petal is often a darker purple with paler coloured wings. The stem has a tendril at the tip, enabling it to climb. It can grow up to 70cm high.
The seed pods are edible (much like peas or beans) and although rarely eaten now, there is evidence to suggest ancient people commonly cultivated them for food. Like other legumes, it is very high in protein. It has been used medicinally to treat eczema and skin irritations

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