Lathyrus clymenum, also called Spanish vetchling, is a flowering plant in the family Fabaceae, native to the Mediterranean. The seeds are used to prepare a Greek dish called fava santorinis. The plant is cultivated on the island of Santorini in Greece and was recently added to the European Union's products with a Protected Designation of Origin.
For 3,500 years residents of Santorini and neighbouring islands have been cultivating the legume species Lathyrus clymenum, known elsewhere only as a wild plant. The peculiar ecosystem that was created by the volcanic explosions on Santorini island, the volcanic ash, the cellular soil, and the combination of humidity created by the sea and the drought, make the bean a unique resource. When weather conditions are good, farmers on the island can reap about 800 kilograms of beans per hectare. A vulnerable crop, it can be destroyed by strong winds that blow away its flowers before they can yield the pea, by drought or by a sudden heat wave almost instantly. Its production is thus limited, making it an expensive crop that costs €700 per acre. The cost for consumers is about €9–10 per kilogram.
The cooked fava are mixed with chopped onion into a purée, typically served with chopped onion, olive oil and lemon juice.
The plant Lathyrus clymenum which the 'Fava Santorinis' is made of, has very high content of protein (25%) and is an excellent source of dietary fibre (26%). It is very low in fat, as most of its carbohydrates derive from complex carbohydrates and protein.
Although it looks like the Indian 'Toor Dal' or 'Chana Dal', it is a completely different species with much higher nutritional value.
There is historical evidence that pulses and in particular wild lentils started being cultivated in Greece in 6,000 BC (for example, Lathyrus clymenum was found in jars in the ruins of Akrotiri, Santorini, which date from approximately 1600 BC). The Greek microclimate has been ideal for the evolution of such crops, and the Greeks have mastered their cooking and have benefited from their high nutritional value throughout history.