Lentil HistoryLentils, botanically-known as Lens culinaris esculenta, have been a source of sustenance for our ancestors since prehistoric times. The word lentils comes from the Latin lens, and indeed, this bean cousin is shaped like the double convex optic lens which took its name from the lentil.
Lentil artifacts have been found on archeological digs dating back 8,000 years, and The Bible's book of Genesis tells the story of Esau, who gave up his birthright for a bowl of crimson lentils and a loaf of bread. As a tasty and plentiful source of protein, lentils graced the tables of peasants and kings alike. Poor Catholics who could not afford fish during the season of Lent substituted lentils.
Thought to have originated in the Near East or Mediterranean area, lentils (known as dal or dahl in India) are small disks resembling a flat baby pea. When halved, dried lentils resemble their split pea cousins. They grow two to a pod and are dried after harvesting.
There are hundreds of varieties of lentils, with as many as fifty or more cultivated for food. They come in a variety of colors, with red, brown, and green being the most popular. Lentils have an earthy, nutty flavor, and some varieties lend a slight peppery touch to the palate.
More About Lentils and Lentil Recipes:• Lentil Selection and Storage
• Lentil Cooking Tips and Preparation
• Lentil Equivalents
• Lentil History
• Lentil Recipes
Lentil Photo © 2007 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.
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