Lentils are one of the oldest cultivated legumes known. They are given reference in the first chapter of Genesis and valuable enough for the story of one’s birthright being given up just to obtain a bowl !
With a 25% ratio of protein, lentils have always been and continue to be an important food source spanning the entire globe. And it's no secret that the word lens is thought to be derived from this legume due to it's shape - an apt description for that particular part of the eye.
Although the lentil has been cultivated in more recent times, the wild lentil, Lens culinaris orientalis, is the place it all started. Since lentils are self-pollinating, it is easy to keep track of lineage. So began the cultivation of this wonderful legume and the varities now are endless.
In the thumbnail you will see the beautiful black lentil, the slightly sweet crimson lentil which is “skinless” and the lentil spoken of in the book of Genesis, the French lentil or Puy which holds up wonderfully in soups and the standard green lentil which is the most economical of all.
Now, let’s talk nutrition! Did you know that lentils provide more folic acid than any other unfortified food per the USDA? How about fiber? Just ¼ cup provides 11 grams of fiber with ZERO fat! Lentils help the body to absorb iron – Lentil Soup with Spinach – it’s a mega meal J
As we've played around with lentils in cooking, the versatility is quite amazing. The darker green French lentils make a lovely salad that improves by a stay in the frig, so it's perfect to make when there's time on the weekends and have handy for a healthy lunch.
We have grown very fond though, of the petite crimson lentil as it's already shelled and split, so cooks up within 15 minutes. The basil we so carefully harvested this fall and froze in ice cube trays with olive oil make a great addition to the lentils. We use it as a creamy and healthy base for grilled salmon.
This marvelous tiny legume is super nutritious, is a cover crop as it puts needed nitrogen back into the soil. All around, it's uniquely useful in many ways; add to that the health benefits and well - it's SUPER LEGUME :)
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on December 22, 2007. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions)