Brown Lentils (Lens esculenta), sometimes called "Spanish Pardina," is one of the most common varieties of lentils. They are a bit smaller than other lentils and a bit firmer and are excellent at holding their shape during long cooking times. Originally from Spain's Pyrenees region, this lentil is mild in flavor so it is often paired with more assertive flavors in European and Asian cuisines.
The bushy, annual plant is a member of the legume family, growing about 16 inches tall with seed-producing pods. The dried seeds stored within those pods are the lentils themselves. After their dull-colored seed coat is removed, these vibrant, low-maintenance pearls are revealed to provide fast, easy cooking and quality nutrient supply. Lentils are part of a family of legumes collectively known as pulses, which also include dried peas and sometimes chickpeas.
The lentil is one of the oldest cultivated legumes-even being mentioned in the Hebrew Bible and is believed to be native to southwestern Asia and northern Syria. The word lentil stems from the Latin "lens."
Unlike their cousin, the bean, lentils do not need to be soaked and therefore are much faster to cook. They are often paired with grains or rice to provide a complete protein. Rice and lentils make up the popular Indian dish "khichdi," as well as one of the national dishes of Egypt, "kushari." About a quarter of lentil production is from India, most of which is consumed by its domestic market.
In addition to high protein and fiber content, the lentil is also packed with iron, zinc, potassium, and magnesium. Eating lentils and other pulses may help reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. They are also an excellent source of folate, which is especially important during pregnancy to help prevent birth defects.
- Light to dark tannish-brown with green highlights
- Approximately 3/16" in diameter
- Nutty, creamy, and firm