Etymology: from the Latin lenticula
Family: "lens" genus, from the papilionaceae family
Intensively cultivated from the earliest days of civilization, lentils have been found in Egyptian tombs dating back to 2200 BC, though their cultivation goes back at least 8000 years. They travelled in the baggage of the dead in order to feed the gods.
Numerous mentions of this legume are found in the Old Testament, under the name adaschum or adaschis used by the Chaldeans, a Semitic people who lived in the agricultural region between the Tigris and the Euphrates. Who has not heard the story from Genesis that tells of how Esau sold Jacob his birthright for a mess of potage… actually a plate of lentils.
There are several varieties of lentils:
the green lentil, by far the most widely cultivated variety in France
the red (or brown) lentil, grown in the Champagne region under the name "lentillon"
the blonde lentil, which is bigger
the pink or coral lentil, which comes from Northern Africa or the Middle East
Lentils are originally an annual herbaceous plant; they grow on a small bushy plant with very thin angular branches, 25 to 75 cm in height. The pods are short but wide, flat and oblong and contain only 1 or 2 seeds each.
The seeds resemble little discs, bulging in the centre, and occur in a whole range of colours. Generally they are disc-shaped and can be subdivided into two sizes:
large lentils or macrospermae
small lentils or microspermae
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