Lentils are an ancient legume, dating back to 2400 B.C. The lentil made its way from the eastern hemisphere to the western, arriving in the United States around 1900. According to the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council, the bulk of U.S. lentils are grown in Idaho, Montana, North Dakota and Washington.
Types of lentils. The lentil, shaped like a tiny contact lens, is available in several varieties. The most common are green and light brown. Lentils may be pink, yellow or black, as well. They're popular in Indian, Middle Eastern and French cuisines, reports the FoodNetwork.com. According to the Food Network, French lentils are also green, but they're slightly smaller than their American cousins are.
Lentil nutrition. One cup of boiled lentils contains 230 calories. However, that same serving has 15 grams of dietary fiber and more than 17 grams of protein. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state proteins "are part of every cell, tissue and organ in our bodies." Protein is essential for our overall health. Lentils also contain the minerals calcium, magnesium and potassium, plus folate and choline.
Buying and storing lentils. In most grocery stores, lentils can be found in the same aisle with the rice. The legume usually is packaged in bags. They can be purchased in bulk, as well. Always look for bags that are sealed tightly and free of any small holes where insects may have been able to penetrate. When buying in bulk, look for lentils that are uniform in shape and color. Store your lentils in an airtight container, and they'll keep for about 10 to 12 months.
Lentil tips. Remember that one cup dried lentils equals about two and one-half cups cooked lentils. They don't need to be soaked before cooking. The Food Network suggests rinsing and picking out any debris before cooking lentils and never season with salt until they're mostly cooked or they can become tough.