Since ancient times, lentils have enjoyed popularity in places like Egypt, Syria, Greece, and Turkey. This unassuming bean even played a role in the Old Testament, when Esau gave up his birthright for a dish of pottage made of the beans. Despite their tiny size, lentils pack a powerful nutritional punch! High in protein, fiber, and iron, but low in cholesterol, calories, and fat, they make a great snack, accompaniment, or main course. Unlike other beans, there is no need to soak them, and they cook quickly.
French green lentils, sometimes called Le Puy lentils, are a hard-to-find and expensive variety. But the search is worth the time, as they are prized for their distinct taste and firmness after cooking. This variety is ideal for salads and side dishes.
French green lentils are tiny (3/16 inch), disk-shaped beans. They are dark green with blue flecks on the outside, and yellow on the inside.
French green lentils have a strong, rich, earthy, peppery taste. When cooked, their texture is firm and hearty.
French green lentils can be purchased dried or canned in specialty stores, or online from Purcell Mountain Farms.
Dried In Bulk: When buying bulk dried French lentils, inquire with the store regarding the turnover of the product. Notice whether the bins are sealed and free of moisture to ensure maximum freshness. Look for whole beans—not broken or shriveled—and purchase only as much as you will use in a month.
Dried Pre-Packaged: Seek dried beans in a tightly sealed, moisture-free package. Avoid any shriveled or broken beans, and check the package for tiny pinholes in the beans, as this is an indication of bug infestation.
Canned: Canned French lentils are available at most grocery stores and natural food stores, and are ideal for convenience. Beans do not lose their nutritional value when canned, and are therefore an easy and nutritious choice. Read the label of all canned beans to avoid extra additives such as salt, as they are unnecessary and unhealthy.
When deciding whether to purchase organic or non-organic beans, it’s helpful to know which are most affected by pesticides. Pesticides are toxins used to kill insects, invasive plants, and fungi during the growth of produce, and are potentially dangerous to people. National and international agencies agree that prolonged exposure to specific pesticides through food consumption is a potential health risk. Additionally, some studies indicate that organic foods have a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals than conventionally raised foods.
The greatest concern regarding consumption of beans is the use of pesticides in the harvesting of bean plants. Due to their small stature, bean plants easily fall prey to insects and pests. To protect their crop, farmers use pesticides to ward off unwanted visitors. Organic farmers, on the other hand, employ a process known as rotation, in which each year, their crops are rotated and moved to areas where they are not subject to fungal and insect infestation. If concerned about pesticide exposure, choose organic French green lentils when possible.
Yoffie Life stresses that consuming conventionally grown beans, when the organic version is unavailable or financially impossible, is far better than eating none at all.
Dried French green lentils are unique in that they have an indefinite shelf life. Packaged dried lentils should be stored in an airtight container in a dark, dry, cool location. However, even when stored in perfect conditions, with increased age, the beans’ cooking time must be extended. For shorter cooking time and overall convenience, only purchase the amount of beans you will use in a month’s time.
Once French green lentils are cooked, they can be kept in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days. To ensure maximum taste and avoid dehydration, immerse the cooked beans in their cooking water before storing in the refrigerator, then simply drain the beans to enjoy. To extend the life of cooked lentils to 4 to 6 months, place in the freezer in tightly sealed freezer bags (no water needed for freezing).
Lentils do not need to be presoaked before cooking, but if you wish to reduce cooking time, soak for 1 to 2 hours. Always rinse beans prior to cooking. After soaking or rinsing, discard water, drain lentils, and sift through the beans by placing them on a flat surface, and remove any tiny stones or foreign materials.
To cook the lentils, place beans in a large pot with 3 cups of water for every 1 cup of beans. Bring the water to a boil; reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until tender. Green lentils should simmer for about 45 to 60 minutes, but use your best judgment. Taste the lentils while cooking to achieve your preferred firmness. If desired, add salt near the end of the cooking time as a digestive aid. Green lentils are known for retaining their shape even if overcooked, whereas other lentils are more likely to fall apart after cooking. Once cooked to the desired consistency, drain the water and serve.
French green lentils are relatively easy to digest, especially when chewed thoroughly, mostly due to their small size. Soaking beans, especially for several days in water that is frequently changed, can make them even easier to digest. Certain additives at the end of the cooking process will make beans less likely to cause gastrointestinal distress. Salt, when added near the end of the cooking time, can be a digestive aid. Cumin or fennel added near the completion of cooking can help prevent gas and bloating. Brown rice, apple cider, and white wine vinegars are all useful additives to help to break down indigestible compounds. Adding kelp or kombu seaweed to the water while cooking the beans also helps with digestion.
Green lentils are unique in their shape, size, and cooking time. Their unique flavor, in particular, makes them hard to replace. They can be replaced with a dark lentil, which mimics their firm texture after cooking. If another type of dark lentil isn’t available, split peas are most similar in shape, size, and cooking time, though they are somewhat sweeter than lentils. Black-eyed peas are another small bean that can be substituted when necessary.
A non-digestible carbohydrate, fiber provides a feeling of fullness, aids digestive support, helps provide the movement and excretion of bodily wastes, and aids blood-sugar stability.
Composed of amino acids (building blocks of protein), this essential nutrient aids in the healing of wounds and the growth of hair, skin, and nails; provides a substantial amount of energy and satiation; catalyzes metabolic reactions; and promotes a healthy hormonal and immune system response.
Iron is an essential trace mineral that transports oxygen in red blood cells from the lungs to the rest of the body, aiding energy and endurance.
Provides structural support to DNA and RNA, works with calcium in the formation of tooth enamel and bone, helps to filter wastes out of the kidneys, and regulates energy. Phosphorus also plays an integral role in cardiovascular health and repairing cells and tissues throughout the body.
The majority of the manganese in the body is stored in the bones and organ tissue, mainly the liver and kidneys. Manganese is responsible for production and maintenance of sex hormones, blood-sugar regulation, brain and nerve function, calcium regulation and absorption, and carbohydrate metabolism.
B9 (Folate or Folic Acid)
An important nutrient necessary for normal cell division during pregnancy and infancy, folic acid (vitamin B9) plays a powerful role in the developing infant. For adults, vitamin B9 is also essential for proper metabolism, aiding in energy and the production of red blood cells.
Lentils are an extremely nutritional food; one of the most nutritious foods you can eat. They are an especially great addition for those who follow meatless diets. They have the most protein of almost any legume, second only to soybeans. Plus, they are rich in iron, a mineral typically found in animal meat.
Additionally, lentils are an excellent source of dietary fiber—one cup of lentils contains 16 grams of fiber. Dietary fiber aids digestion by helping food move along the digestive tract. Without fiber, you may experience constipation, irregularity, and low energy. High-fiber diets are associated with weight loss, lower cholesterol levels, reduced risk of heart disease, and reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
All these factors in tandem make lentils valuable for heart health, cholesterol levels, digestion, and dieting.
- Lentils were eaten as many as 13,000 years ago.
- In Italy, eating lentils on New Year’s Eve is thought to be good luck.
- Lentils have a part in Grimm’s fairy tale Cinderella, determining whether Cinderella goes to the ball.