Lentils, a type of legume, grow in pods that contain either one or two lentil seeds that are round, oval or heart-shaped disks. They come in a variety of colours such as brown, green, black and yellow and an array of sizes. They are sold either whole or split in half.
Lentils are one of the oldest crops to be cultivated. They were part of what is known as the Neolithic package: a set of innovations in the use of plants and animals which enabled the shift from hunter-gathering to early farming.
Most of these innovations, including lentil domestication, originated in the region of northern Iraq, south-eastern Turkey and north-eastern Syria. DNA analysis has shown that domesticated lentils are most closely related to the wild lentils that originated in this area. The earliest domesticated lentils, which were found in Iran, date around 5000 BCE.
Around 2500 BCE, traders brought lentils to Europe. European farmers started to plant lentils as part of their three-field rotation: they planted a third of their fields in wheat and oats, a third in lentils, peas or other beans, and a third was left to rest. Lentils both fertilized the wheat fields and provided a good source of protein.
Today lentils are cultivated and consumed all over the globe but Canada grows and exports the most.
Compared to other types of dried legumes, lentils are relatively quick and easy to prepare, taking anywhere from 10 to 40 minutes, depending on the variety. They readily absorb a variety of wonderful flavours from other foods and seasonings.
They are frequently combined with rice, which has a similar cooking time. A lentil and rice dish is referred to in Arab countries as mujaddara or mejadra. In Iran, it’s called adas pol is served with fried raisins.
Rice and lentils are also cooked together in khichdi, a popular dish in South Asia; a similar dish, kushari, is made in Egypt and is considered one of their national dishes. Lentils are used to prepare inexpensive and nutritious soup and stews all over Europe and North and South America.
Here are a few easy to make to make lentil dishes for you to try. Enjoy!