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Lentil History

Lentils are an excellent meat substitute

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Lentils

© 2007 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone
The lowly lentil has been sustaining man for thousands of years. Some foodies once considered lentils as poor man's food and refused to eat them because they are so inexpensive. Although they may be cheap, lentils are very nutritious, filling, and more importantly, arguably the most flavorful of all the legumes. Learn more about lentils and try some interesting old and new lentil recipes.

Lentil History

Lentils, 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.

Cookbooks

Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven
Perfect Vegetables: A Best Recipe Classic
A Fistful of Lentils
366 Delicious Ways to Cook Rice, Beans, and Grains
More Cookbooks
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