The lentil or daal or pulse is a bushy annual plant of the legume family, grown for its lens shaped seeds. It is about 15 inches tall and the seeds grow in pods, usually with two seeds in each.
The plant originated in the Near East, and has been part of the human diet since the Neolithic period. With 26% protein, lentil is the vegetable with the highest level of protein after soybeans and hemp, and because of this it is a very important part of the diet in many parts of the world, especially in India, which has a large vegetarian population.
A variety of lentils exists with colours that range from yellow to reddish orange to green, brown and black. Red, white and yellow lentils are decorticated, i.e., they have their skins removed. One variety of yellow "lentils," Chana, is in fact made from the kernels of chickpeas (garbanzo bean, Indian pea, ceci bean, bengal gram, chana, kadale kaalu, sanaga pappu, shimbra). There are large and small varieties of many lentils (e.g., Masoor Lentils). Lentils are sold in many forms, with or without the skins, whole or split. The urad bean, a species of the genus Vigna, is also referred to as "black lentil". Split peas are another variety of legume, similar to lentils.
Types of lentils
French Green/Puy (Dark speckled blueish green)
Green (Most common variety)
Yellow/Tan Lentils (Red inside)
Red Chief (Decorticated yellow lentils)
Eston Green (Small green)
Richlea (Medium green)
Laird (Large green)
Petite Golden (Decorticated lentils)
Masoor (Brown skinned lentils which are red inside)
The seeds have a short cooking time (especially for small varieties with the husk removed, such as the common red lentil) and a distinctive earthy flavour. Lentils are used to prepare an inexpensive and nutritious soup all over the world. They are frequently combined with rice, which has a similar cooking time. A lentil and rice dish is referred to in the Middle East as mujaddara or mejadra. Rice and lentils are also cooked together in khichdi, a popular Indian dish. Lentils are used throughout India, the Mediterranean regions and the Middle East. In rare cases the lentils are mixed with dairy cheese.
A large percentage of Indians are vegetarian and lentils have long been part of the indigenous diet as a common source of protein. Usually, lentils are boiled to a soup like consistency with vegetables and then seasoned with a mixture of spices to make many side dishes such as sambar, rasam and dal, which are usually served over rice and roti.
When lentils are prepared, they are first inspected for damaged lentils, stones and other foreign matter. Then they are rinsed until the water runs through and comes out clear. Some prefer to soak the lentils for an extended time and discard the water. This removes substances that may cause indigestion. The lentils are then boiled in water or broth. They may be cooked on the stovetop, or in a slow cooker. Pressure cookers are not recommended, since the small lentils may clog the pressure relief valve, and their quick cooking time means there is little benefit from pressure cooking. Cooked lentils often require thinning: adding more hot water or broth to the cooked legumes until the desired final consistency is reached.
Add some herbs
A great way to cooking Puy lentils, taken from this recipe, is to boil the lentils with a large sprig of rosemary. The two ingredients are common to the same region so it can't be the first time it's been done!
We have recently started to take delivery of a weekly organic fruit and vegetable box which has of course heightened our interest in the 5 a day fruit and vegetable regime. This simple app will show you what makes up one of your 5 a day portions of vegetables. You'll be surprised how small the quantities are in some instances. You'll be able to eat healthier and feel all the better for it.
Select a fruit or vegetable from the picker below to see what its daily portion consists of
What are you waiting for? Pick your fruit and veg now!
3 heaped tablespoons of tinned Ackee
2 Globe Artichoke hearts
7 spears of tinned asparagus
5 spears of fresh asparagus
One third of an Aubergine/Eggplant
3 heaped tablespoons of barlotti beans
3 heaped tablespoons of black-eyed beans
3 heaped tablespoons of broad beans
3 heaped tablespoons of butter beans
3 heaped tablespoons of cannellini beans
4 heaped tablespoons of French beans
3 heaped tablespoons of kidney beans
3 heaped tablespoons of pinto beans
4 heaped tablespoons of runner beans
3 heaped tablespoons of soya beans
2 handfuls of fresh bean sprouts
3 whole bottled beetroot
3 whole fresh baby beetroot
2 spears of broccoli
8 Brussels sprouts
3 heaped tablespoons of butternut squash
2 handfuls of sliced cabbage
3 heaped tablespoons of shredded cabbage
3 heaped tablespoons of tinned carrots
3 heaped tablespoons of fresh carrot slices
8 florets of cauliflower
3 sticks of celery
3 heaped tablespoons of chickpeas
One fifth of a head of Chinese leaves
Half a large courgette
5 cm (2 inch) piece of cucumber
4 heaped tablespoons of curly kale
Half a karela (bitter melon)
1 leek (white portion only)
3 tablespoons of lentils
1 cereal bowl of lettuce (mixed leaves)
1 handful of mange-tout
3 heaped tablespoons of marrow
3 tablespoons of frozen mixed vegetables
2 tablespoons of dried mushrooms
16 medium Okra
1 medium Onion
3 heaped tablespoons of pak choi (Chinese cabbage)