A kaleidoscope of color can be found within the entire lentil family. But, our personal favorites are green lentils. These legendary legumes are perfect for your next meal. Read on to find out why.
What are Lentils?
Before we get into the specifics of our favorite lentil, we should briefly touch on what lentils are as a whole. Lentils are legumes, just like beans and peanuts, and are the fruit or seeds of specific plants in the Fabaceae family. Lentils are little lens-shaped ‘beans’ found within seed pods. Once the pods become dry, and the natural life cycle of the plant nears its end, the lentils are harvested.
The lentil origin story begins in Southwest Asia and the Middle East, where we find the heaviest concentration of lentil use in regional cuisine. Our modern day lentils are primarily grown in Canada and India; these two countries make up almost 60% of our global lentil production.
Why are Green Lentils so Fantastic?
Yes, we harbor some strong opinions on green lentils, but these opinions are not without warrant. There are two types of green lentils: large and small. Large green lentils are ones that you are most likely to be familiar with as they are the champions of soup and stews. Large green lentils are exceptionally tender when boiled, and cook in record time (about 20-30 minutes). They are the workhorse of the lentil family, and are our go-to for soups (like this recipe for Harissa Chickpea and Lentil Soup), daal (like this recipe for Green Lentil Daal), dips, and spreads (like this recipe for Green Lentil Hummus).
The smaller green lentils, aka French lentils or lentilles du puy, have thicker skins than their larger counterparts. French lentils take a little longer to cook, about 40-50 minutes, but retain their shape and have a bit more chew. They also have more flavor, with mega earthy notes and hints of pepper. All of these characteristics make small green lentils our favorites for salads (like this recipe for French Lentil Salad), slow cooking (like in this recipe for Moroccan Spiced Carrots and Lentils), and side dishes (like this recipe for Brothy Beans and Lentils).
Sourcing your New Favorite Lentil
Convinced of the green lentil’s awesomeness? I knew you would be. Now, how to get your hands on these lentils? Large green lentils are very easy to source, most grocery stores carry them, and often they can be found with the other dried beans or with canned soups. French green lentils can be found easily online, Bob’s Red Mill sources a very nice lentil. Some gourmet grocers may stock French green lentils as well, but it’s best to call ahead to make sure.