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All about ” Lentils / Lens”: green, brown, coral

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The lentil has been part of human nutrition since prehistoric times. Enthroned among legumes with the smallest size, the lentil has the advantage of requiring a shorter cooking time than the majority of legumes. We know better the green or brown lens that we sometimes use in soups, but we also find on tablets the coral lens (sometimes called red lens), a little smaller.

Lens features:

  • Source of antioxidants;
  • Limits the onset of cardiovascular disease;
  • Rich in fiber;
  • Rich in iron;
  • Source of zinc.

What is the lens?

Lens identity card

  • Family: Fabaceae;
  • Origin: Europe and Asia;
  • Season: All year round;
  • Color: Green, brown, coral;

Characteristics of lenses

What makes up the food (during harvest): its skin, its flesh, its core

Word from the nutritionist

Lentils allow you to fill up on fibers that are often consumed in too small quantities. Do not hesitate to consume it regularly. Count 180 to 200g of cooked lentils for one serving.

Nutritional values

For 100g of cooked lentils:

Nutrients                                                    Quantities                                                  
Protein 8.2g
Fat 0.5 g
Carbohydrates 12.6 g
Water 70g
Fibers 9.1 g
Vitamin B1 0.13 mg
Vitamin B2 0.07 mg
Vitamin B9 35 µg
Iron 3.3 mg
Phosphorus 100 mg
Magnesium 32 mg

Benefits of lentils: Why eat them?

  1. Lentils contain antioxidants which are compounds that protect the cells of the body from damage caused by free radicals. These are very reactive molecules which are implicated in the appearance of cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and other diseases linked to aging.
  2. Lentils contain antioxidants called anthocyanins that decrease the growth of human cancer cells
  3. Rich in fiber, lentils stimulate intestinal transit, reduce the risk of colon cancer and play on satiety.
  4. The presence of soluble fiber also helps to prevent cardiovascular disease by notably reducing the absorption of bile acids, which helps normalize blood cholesterol levels. They can also help control type 2 diabetes, among other things, by slowing the digestion of glucose in food.
  5. Lentils contain phosphorus which plays an essential role in the formation and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth.
  6. The lens is an excellent source of iron for men and a good source for women, their needs being different. Each body cell contains iron. This mineral is essential for the transport of oxygen and the formation of red blood cells in the blood.
  7. The lens is an excellent source of vitamin B9 which is involved in the production of all cells in the body, including red blood cells. This vitamin plays an essential role in the production of genetic material (DNA, RNA), in the functioning of the nervous system and the immune system, as well as in the healing of wounds and wounds.
  8. The lens is a source of magnesium which participates in bone development, protein construction, enzymatic actions, muscle contraction, dental health and the functioning of the immune system.
  9. The lens is a source of potassium which is used to balance the pH of the blood and to stimulate the production of hydrochloric acid by the stomach, thus supporting digestion.
  10. The lens is a source of selenium. This mineral works with one of the main antioxidant enzymes, thus preventing the formation of free radicals in the body. It also helps to convert thyroid hormones to their active form.
  11. The lens is a source of vitamin B2. This vitamin is also known as riboflavin. Like vitamin B1, it plays a role in the energy metabolism of all cells. In addition, it contributes to tissue growth and repair, hormone production and the formation of red blood cells.
  12. The lens is a source of vitamin B3. Also called niacin, vitamin B3 participates in many metabolic reactions and contributes particularly to the production of energy from the carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and alcohol that we ingest. It also collaborates in the DNA formation process, allowing normal growth and development.

Choosing the right lenses

The lens should be smooth, whole, with shiny skin and a fair color. It must not have started to germinate.

The different varieties

There are different varieties of lenses which are listed according to their color:

  • Green lentil: the most cultivated both in Europe and in North America, according to three categories: large, medium, small; his skin is thin, but does not break out when cooked.
  • Blond lentil: the most common and one of the largest, it is cultivated in Argentina, Canada, Chile, the United States and Turkey, but not in France.
  • Brown lentil: it is mainly used canned.
  • Coral or pink lentil: cultivated in India, the Middle East and North Africa, it has a slightly peppery flavor.
  • Red lentil: it is a fairly rare variety. In France, it is cultivated only in Champagne and is called “lentillon”, Canada is also a producer.
  • Beluga black lentil: smooth, very round and black (hence its name), it is native to Canada.

Keep well

In the long run, legumes become harder and less digestible. It seems to be less the case for lentils, but it is still preferable not to keep them for more than a year. They are kept in an airtight container, cool and dry.

Lentils preparation

How to cook it? How to match it?

Before cooking the lentils, they will be rinsed with plenty of water, eliminating the floating ones, as well as the pebbles if necessary. They are generally not soaked before cooking, except the blondes, harder and with thicker skin, which will benefit from soaking two hours in lukewarm water. The cooking time varies depending on the variety, provenance and presentation (shelled or not). This ranges from a few minutes for coral lentils to 40 or 45 minutes for others. Salt will only be added at the end of cooking to prevent them from hardening.

Recipe ideas:

  • We make soups, veloutés or purees. For a tasty soup, add a lentil purée with a crustacean aroma and crème fraîche.
  • They are also prepared as a salad, with shallots and a few bacon bits if desired. The salad will be better if you add the vinaigrette – to the mustard, it suits them well – while the lentils are still hot or warm.
  • They can be simmered in the oven with a piece of meat – veal or pork shank, sausages, white or smoked ham – or with fish. According to amateurs, the green lentil goes particularly well with meat, while the red is better suited to fish.
  • Several traditional French recipes prepare them with game birds – such as duck or partridge.
  • If you combine them with rice in a vegetable stew, as there is of all kinds in the Mediterranean basin, you get a particularly nutritious vegetarian dish. To stay in tone, we dare seasonings like lemon, turmeric or saffron.
  • In North America, to cook a vegetarian shepherd’s pie, we replace the traditional ground beef with lentils: a layer of lentil puree at the bottom of the dish, a layer of corn kernels, then a layer of mashed potatoes. Bake and simmer for about thirty minutes.
  • In India, the lentil, called dhal, follows rice very closely as a staple food. We cultivate many varieties, which we obviously prepare in 1,000 ways. One of these very tasty dhal soups is made with coral lentils, a paste made of crushed ginger and garlic, turmeric, hot green peppers, cumin, garam masala and chopped chives.
    The lentils are rinsed and cleaned, then cooked for half an hour in water with the garlic and ginger puree, turmeric and green peppers. Then crush them with a wooden spoon and cook them for another ten minutes. Garlic, peppers and cumin are sautéed in a pan, then the lentil puree is added and cooked for two or three minutes. At the very end, add the garam masala and chives.

History of the lens

The term “lentille”, which comes from the Latin lenticula, short for lens, appeared in the French language in the 12th century. By analogy of form, the food will give its name to the glass objects used in the manufacture of optical instruments, then to glasses and contact lenses.

One of the first legumes to be domesticated – 9,000 or 10,000 years ago, probably at the same time as wheat – the lentil comes from the fertile crescent of the Near East. Vestiges dating from this time have been discovered in the north of Syria, on the banks of the Euphrates. Apart from escaped crops, it is rarely found in the wild. Its culture spread in Greece and in the south of Bulgaria with the development of agriculture in the Neolithic era, and it joined Crete 6000 years before our era. In the Bronze Age, it was known in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Switzerland, Germany and France.

The lens was highly esteemed in the Pharaohs’ Egypt. We have discovered vestiges in tombs of Thebes dating from 2,400 years before our era, and we know, thanks to frescoes from the time of Ramses II, that lentil soup was consumed in Egypt. The Assyrians also knew it: documents indicate that it was cultivated in the famous hanging gardens of Babylon in the 8th century BC.

In ancient Greece, it was considered the food of the poor. From a new rich man of the time, it was euphemistically said that he no longer liked lentils.

For further

Protein complementarity: not that complicated!

Legumes are among the most protein-rich plant-based foods. However, unlike animal proteins, legumes generally have a low content of methionine (an essential amino acid in the body), which makes their proteins incomplete. However, people who eat little or no animal protein can combine legumes with grain products or nuts, which allows them to get whole proteins (which contain all the essential amino acids). In adults, it is not necessary to seek this complementarity within the same meal, since the fact of obtaining it in the same day is usually sufficient. However, in children, adolescents and pregnant women,

Organic gardening

Although it is possible, it is of little interest to cultivate the lentil in the family vegetable garden since it requires a lot of space and it is relatively unproductive. However, it can be grown as green manure: as seed, we can use expired lentils that were originally intended for food.

Sow once the risk of frost has passed and bury just before flowering.

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