[Sca-cooks] Which lentils are "period"?

Terry Decker t.d.decker at att.net
Mon Jan 5 18:18:23 PST 2009

Lentils are of Old World origin.  The cultivated varieties belong primarily 
to Lens culinaris (L. esculenta) and are divided into two subspecies 
taxonomical divided by seed size.  The large seed ssp. is primaarily 
culitvated in the Mediterranean Basin, Africa and Asia Minor.  The small 
seed ssp. is primarily found in western and southwestern Asia, especially 
India.  At present there are four accepted wild species.  The proper 
taxonomy is a subject of on-going debate.

There is evidence that they were gathered in Greece 13,000 to 9,500 years 
ago and in the Near East 10,000 to 9,500 years ago.  Lentils have been found 
in Bronze Age sites in Switzerland.  Domestication probably occurred between 
10,000 and 7,000 years ago, but it is impossible to determine where they 
were originally domesticated.  By historical times, lentils were common fare 
in North Africa, Southern Europe, and the Near East.  The larger brown or 
green lentil was probably more common than the other colors, but red lentils 
were apparently grown in Egypt before the Islamic expansion.

You will find recipes for lentils in Apicius and an inventory from 
Staffelsee show payments of lentils as rent during Charlemagne's time.


> I hadn't realized there were that many different lentils. Like beans, 
> some of which are also on that site, there seem to be a wide variety.  But 
> some beans are Old World, but most are New World. Is this true of 
> lentils? And even of just the Old World lentils, which ones were  known in 
> different regions?  Were these used in medieval Europe or  just mostly in 
> the Middle East?
> Stefan 

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