These small legumes of the pea family are grown for there seeds, which may be dried and used in soups and stews, and are also ground into a flour. The plant itself is used as fodder. It is most likely the oldest cultivated legume, and is believed to be native to southwestern Asia, perhaps northern Syria. Seeds have been found in Egyptian tombs dating from the 12 Dynasty (2400 B.C.), and there is also evidence of their cultivation as early as 6,000 B.C.  They are widely cultivated throughout Asia, parts of Europe and North Africa, and more than 5 million acres are grown worldwide (1990). They are a staple in much of the Middle East and India. They are rich in protein and carbohydrates, and are a good source of calcium, phosphorus, iron and B vitamins. They are found in various colors, white, green, red, yellow, brown, and orange. The Latin name is the origin for the name of a certain piece of glass.