Celebrate Cary Fowler Day in the MarketPlace!

Posted on September 28th, 2010 by

Grass pea (lathyrus sativus). Image courtesy of EOL (http://www.eol.org/pages/703183). Terms of license can be found at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/

Today, you have an opportunity to taste something quite rare and special, if you venture over to the soup zone in the MarketPlace. In honor of Cary Fowler (who just won a big prize, for his efforts to preserve biodiversity, btw!), we’re serving Grass Pea Soup.

Grass Peas, also called Cicerchia (Lathyrus sativus), are similar to the widely-used chickpeas (garbanzo beans),  but are more flavorful, sweeter, and contain a much higher protein content.  When we asked him to choose a food that would represent his work, Fowler chose grass peas as a way to highlight the need to utilize a wider array of plant foods, as one way to protect biodiversity.

In an interview with Western Farm Press, Fowler had this to say about the grass pea:  “We have a crop called grass pea, or lathyrus, a legume that’s extremely drought-tolerant, is also flood-tolerant with very high protein. However, it also contains a neurotoxin that causes paralysis if someone eats too much. It’s a life-giving crop but also has obvious problems. Grass pea is used in Ethiopia, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. The wonderful thing about the diversity we’ve collected in the crop is we believe it contains low-toxin variants. In the future, we might be able to breed a variety of this that would survive droughts and thus save lives in famine situation, without causing paralysis. It’s a fantastic crop.”

Come to the MarketPlace and enjoy a bowl of Grass Pea Soup–and then come hear Dr. Fowler next week at the Nobel Conference!



  1. Laura Lindell says:

    A legume that’s both drought resistant and flood tolerant sounds almost too good to be true, so that’s where the neurotoxin “fine print” comes in, I guess.

    Just how much grass pea is too much to eat, and isn’t it proportional — if more causes paralysis, can’t less still cause stiffness? No wonder grass pea hasn’t caught on!

  2. […] There’s also a chicken and grass pea stew in Soup Land. Check out yesterday’s post about Cary Fowler, if you just this morning forgot what a grass pea is.  Rumor has it that there is still some vegan […]