pea-like seeds valued for their
The lentil, Lens ensculenta, is a
member of the pea family (Leguminosae) native to
central and western Asia and southern Europe. The
plant, which grows 12-20 inches in height, bears
long fruits, or pods, containing one or two seeds
each. Those seeds are shaped like a lens, and the
word "lens" comes from the Latin name
for the plant.
Lentils have been cultivated for their
nutritious seeds since ancient times. They are
very rich in protein and carbohydrates and are
usually used in casseroles, salads, and soups.
They are also good for diets, with only 229
calories per 1-ounce serving. Lentils come in a
variety of colors, with green, black and orange
being the most common; all varieties are equal in
nutritional value, but there are slight
variations in taste and cooking texture. India is
the world's leading producer of lentils, followed
by Turkey, Canada, China and Syria. In the United
States, most lentil production is confined to
eastern Washington and northern Idaho.
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