‘Ingredient Of The Week’ is back. Lentils are …

‘Ingredient Of The Week’ is back. Lentils are my focus this week. These wonderful sources of plant protein and fibre are cheap to grow and buy, easy to store and use, and just so good for us and the environment. Lentils are believed to have originated in central Asia, having been consumed since prehistoric times. They are one of the first foods to have ever been cultivated. Lentil seeds dating back 8000 years have been found at archeological sites in the Middle East.

Compared to other types of dried beans, lentils are relatively quick and easy to prepare, due to their size. They easily absorb a variety of flavors from other foods and seasonings, are high in nutritional value and are available throughout the year – without any of the damage to the planet cattle is causing.

For millennia, lentils have been traditionally been eaten with barley and wheat, three foodstuffs that originated in the same regions and spread throughout Africa and Europe. Before the 1st century AD, they were introduced into India, a country whose traditional cuisine still holds high regard for the spiced lentil dish known as dal. Currently, the leading commercial producers of lentils include India, Turkey, Canada, China and Syria.

Lentils are legumes along with other types of beans. They grow in pods that contain either one or two lentil seeds that are round, oval or heart-shaped disks and are often about the size of a grain of rice. They may be sold whole or split into halves (this type will go mushy) with the whole brown and green varieties being the best at retaining their shape after cooking.

Below, clockwise from top -red split lentils at the top, whole brown (sometimes called ‘green’), then Puy lentils. #lentils

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