Lentils are edible, meaning that you can classify them as food. Anything you can eat is good stuff depending on how you prepare it. Lentil is a bushy plant that is around for all the seasons of the year. It got its name from the way it is shaped.
Lentils look like tiny beans, but they have curves reminiscent of a lens-shaped object. Lentils come in different colors, you can have red, brown, or green. There are also other colors like black, yellow, and orange. If you have a pact to now watch what you eat, lentils should be on the list of healthy food items you want to try out.
What do lentils taste like? The taste of lentils depends on their color, and there are three popular colors. Green lentils have a peppery taste and spicy aroma, accompanied by a soft but glossy exterior. Brown lentils have a mild earthy flavor and hold their shape very well even under high heat. Red lentils are the sweetest of the bunch and their nutty flavor is well pronounced.
Aside from tasting great, lentils add to the aesthetics of any dish you use them in. Although when you cook them, you have to be careful. Some varieties hold up well and some don’t.
Nutritional Benefits of Lentils
By any means or definition, lentils should be classified as a superfood. They are nutrient-dense because they are low in calories, but packed with soluble fiber, essential minerals, and vitamins.
Lentils bring a lot of nutritional value to your table if you include them in your diet. For example, they can reduce blood cholesterol levels. This is due to the high level of soluble fiber present in lentils. Low blood cholesterol levels mean that there is less risk of heart disease.
Soluble fiber also helps to take care of constipation and encourages bowel movement. It can trap carbohydrates in food and reduce blood sugar levels. This is an advantage for people with diabetes who are trying to maintain their blood sugar levels.
Lentils have a good supply of iron. One of the causes of fatigue is iron deficiency. The addition of lentils to one’s diet is a great way to combat fatigue and stay in shape. The high amount of fiber combined with the fact that lentils are low in calories and contain no fat makes them perfect for weight loss. The fiber in lentils can keep your stomach full for longer and reduce your amount of food intake.
Lentils contain minerals like manganese, folate, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin B6, iron, and selenium. These micronutrients are great on their own and are all important to keep the body operating at an optimal level.
However, the combined power of these micronutrients can be great for stopping the formation of cancerous cells. Folate helps to keep homocysteine levels down. If these levels are high, it can greatly increase the risk of heart diseases.
Culinary Uses of Lentils
There are so many ways you can use lentils in your kitchen. The first obvious use would be to cook them. To do that, you have to sort the lentils to get rid of debris and other unwanted elements. Then you soak it for at least 7 hours so that when you rinse them, the outer layer can detach.
When you are ready to cook, just rinse and boil. The boiling time depends on what variety of lentil you are cooking with. Lentils can go into dips, soups, and stews. The peppery flavor of green lentils is usually appreciated in chili.
Lentils are very versatile, they can easily be paired with other food items. You can use it as a replacement for beans in some recipes. If you want your lentils to taste better and bring out the flavor, instead of using water, you can use broth instead.
Just boiling lentils is the normal thing anyone would do, but you can take it further and try out other forms of dishes where you can include lentils. After boiling, you can add them to a stir-fry dish, or have them in the batter for baked goodies. To use them in a more casual manner, you can have lentils pureed and use them as a dip like hummus.
Where Are Lentils Grown? How Do You Procure Them?
The majority of the world’s production of lentils comes from Canada and India. These two countries together, amount to 58 percent of the global production for lentils.
Lentils were domesticated from a wild subspecies in the Fertile Crescent of the Near East (in modern-day Iraq, Israel, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, and Egypt). That region is regarded as one of the cradles of mankind’s civilization. After it was domesticated, it then spread to Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.
Archaeology has traced the discovery of lentils back to places like Tell Ramad in Syria (6250 – 5950 BC), Jordan, Halicar in Turkey (5800 – 6000 BC), and in Iran (5500 – 5000 BC).
As of 2018, the United States is the third leading country for the production of lentils with the Palouse region of Washington and the Idaho panhandle as the main producing regions. You can get lentils at grocery stores or farmers’ markets in your locality.
Do Lentils Taste Like Meat?
When cooked, lentils have a texture that is similar to that of ground meat. They also have a flavor that is subtle enough to let them absorb the flavors of the dish or recipe you are incorporating them into. Beyond the texture, lentils do not taste like meat.
Facts You Don’t Know About Lentils
- The scientific name for lentil is Lens culinary or Lens esculenta. It is an edible legume from the Fabaceae family in the Plant Kingdom.
- Lentil flour can be produced from the seeds, using a process known as dhal mining in India.
- Genetic breeding and research are being carried out on lentils to create a strain that is more resistant to disease.