Lentil (Lat. lens), an esculent seed produced by ervum lens, of the pea family, and used for food from the earliest times. The lentils of Egypt used to be held in much esteem. It was a preparation of this diet which Esau exchanged for his birthright, under the name of " red pottage;" and according to Dr. Shaw, in his "Travels in Barbary," the lentils were dressed in the same manner as beans, dissolving into a mass and making a pottage of a chocolate color. In Egypt and Syria the parched seeds are exposed for sale in the shops, and they are esteemed the best food to carry upon long journeys. On the continent of Europe its use is very common, especially by the Roman Catholics during Lent. The plant is slender and branching, with the leaves terminated by tendrils; it grows only 12 or 18 in. high, and hears small pea-like flowers in pairs, which are succeeded by pods containing from one to four round, flattened, doubly convex seeds. There are some half dozen varieties, of which the large lentil is the most productive and the common the best flavored.
Considerable quantities are imported into this country, but their use is mainly confined to Europeans; lentil soup is a favorite dish with Germans. The cultivation of the lentil is very similar to that of the pea, requiring a dry, warm, sandy soil; it is sown early in May, broadcast if intended merely for fodder, but in drills if the ripe seeds are desired; as a green food for stock it is highly valued in Europe, but it has not obtained a place in our agriculture. Like other legumes, the lentil contains a great amount of nutriment, Einhoff finding in loo parts 32.81 of starch and 37.32 of matter analogous to animal matter. The preparation sold as a food for children under the names of revalenta and ervalenta Arabica consists of lentil meal flavored with sugar and salt. Lentils are regarded as a highly nutritious and easily digestible food, but they must be deprived of their skins either before or after cooking, as these are indigestible and hurtful.
Lentil (Ervum lens).