A very valuable green manure crop, it can be sown in spring or as late as October. A deep rooted and fast growing plant, it is winter hardy, an effective weed suppresser, produces a good bulk and fixes a large amount of nitrogen.
25g per square metre.
Succeeds in any well-drained soil in a sunny position if the soil is reliably moist throughout the growing season, otherwise it is best grown in semi-shade.
Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water and sow in situ from late winter to early summer and again in the autumn.
This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby.
Seed - cooked. Not very palatable nor very digestible but it is very nutritious. The seed can be dried, ground into a powder and mixed with cereal flour to make bread, biscuits, cakes etc. The beans compliment the protein in the cereal making it more complete.
Leaves, young shoots and young pods - cooked.
The leaves are a tea substitute.
Some caution is advised: There is some evidence that the seed may be toxic but this has only been shown under laboratory conditions, there are no recorded cases of poisoning by this plant in Britain.