The Asparagus Pea (Tetragonolobus purpureus)

Last summer, I tried out a bunch of different edible legumes. The strangest of which was Tetragonolobus purpureus – the asparagus pea.

Asparagus peas are common in most books about strange and unusual vegetables but not so common in seed catalogs. I purchased my seed from Patrice at la Socit des Plantes during a Seedy Sunday last year. (And now we’ve added it to our seed offerings.)

The Edible Asparagus Pea Pod

Folks claim you can lightly boil the young pods then eat them. And that they taste like asparagus.

The pods look like skinny 2-inch long pea pods with 4 wings sticking out.

We didn’t get around to boiling the asparagus peas but we did sample them raw.

If you have an excessively moist mouth, and are looking for something to suck all the moisture out and leave you all pasty, then asparagus peas are the vegetable for you.

Raw asparagus peas are incredibly astringent. I hope they are better cooked.

The Asparagus Pea Plant

This winter I mentioned to Patrice how astringent the pods were. He knew what I was talking about. He said that the growing tips of the stems were delicious in salads.

Next year we’ll sample the tips and make a more informed evaluation of asparagus pea culinary merits. In the meantime we have

The Asparagus Pea Flowers

And they are stunning.

These plants are definitely worth growing as a sprawling ornamental in the ground or in a container.

A Few Word About Growing Asparagus Peas

Asparagus peas

  • are fairly cold hardy (like peas)
  • can be sown directly outdoors or started indoors
  • have mature seed by August near Montreal

There you have it – the asparagus pea: easy to grow, beautiful scarlet blooms, and great for excessively moist mouths.

Who else is a fan?

12 thoughts on “The Asparagus Pea (Tetragonolobus purpureus)

  1. I just got some of asparagus pea seeds from a friend out east. those flowers look gorgeous so i’ll try planting them in a planter…now with tamed expectations for culinary use. thanks!

  2. One of the comments I see repeated regularly about the TETRAGONOLOBUS purpureus is that you should pick and eat the pods young – when they’re about 2.5 cms long/1inch – otherwise they become very fibrous if grown bigger. Though one person commented that if you miss picking out a pod when it’s young, you can instead use the more mature seed in the same way as legumes.

    You mentioned yours were 2 inches long. Perhaps thats why they sucked so much moisture from your mouth?

    1. I’ve also read that you should pick the pods young. My renewed trials will have to wait till next year as I didn’t have space for these guys this summer.

      I’m not sure their astringent qualities are solely due to the size. I’ve heard about this moisture sucking from others. Most places recommend boiling them. I would guess that counteracts the dry mouth.


  3. PS – On further reading, I think the person who mentioned using the mature seed as a legume may possibly have been talking about the Tetr. Psophocarpus instead of Tetr. Purpureus. But still, the picking by 1 inch, not 2 inch, recommendation remains.

  4. Hello, Dan! You wrote “[Patrice] said the growing tips of the stems were delicious in salads”. Did you mean raw or cooked? Ever tasted? I’m curious about this fact because I’m cultivating asparagus pea since a couple of years and I’ve never eaten the leaves or flowers (I don’t know whether they are edible). Since many confuse Tetragonolobus purpureus with the eat-all Psophocarpus tetragonolobus I’m interested in first hand info… Many thanks!

    1. Patrice eats these raw. The flowers are edible raw too. Many of the crops in the bean/pea family have edible leaves and flowers.

  5. Hi! I know this is a pea-like veggie, but I also know its seeds are high in a kind of lectin (Lotus tetragonolobus agglutinin) so I didn’t dare taste the plant raw 😉 Many thanks for your reply!

      1. Hi again Dan! The fact itself that some people eat this plant raw means that the lectin is high only in the mature seeds, otherwise they would feel bad in a few time 😉 It’s like common beans: you can’t eat them raw. Even 4-5 beans can cause poisoning.

        I’m a chemist interested in nutrition (beside being a farmer). Lotus tetragonolobus is not so common a veggie, so it’s quite hard to find info about lectin content in every part of the plant. Moreover, being it confused more than often with Psophocarpus, most of the stuff you can find on the net must be double-checked…

        Anecdotal info like the ones you provided (“some people eat it raw”) means a lot for me: more precisely, it points me to realize that the asparagus pea can be eaten safely also by people on stricter diets, like primal or (perhaps) paleo.

        Many many thanks again for your time!

  6. These are the best for attracting hummingbirds and bees! Despite the flowers being TINY the birds literally fought over them.

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