Lens esculenta Moench. Leguminosae. Lentil.
Orient. This was probably one of the first plants brought under cultivation by mankind for food. Lentils were known to the ancient Greeks, Jews and Egyptians. The cultivation of the lentil is very ancient, as it has been found in the Egyptian tombs of the twelfth dynasty, or 2200 to 2400 B. C. It has been found in the lacustrine debris of Switzerland dating from the age of bronze. Lentils are now cultivated extensively throughout most parts of the East, including Egypt, Nubia, Syria and India; likewise in most of the countries of central and southern Europe. Wilkinson states that in ancient Egypt much attention was bestowed on the culture of this useful pulse, and certain varieties became remarkable for their excellence, the lentils of Pelusium being esteemed both in Egypt and in foreign countries. In Egypt and Syria, the seeds are parched and sold in the shops. In France and Spain, there are three varieties cultivated; the small brown or red sort is preferred for haricots and soups, and the yellow lentil is readily convertible into flour and serves as the base of certain adulterated preparations. In England, lentils are but little cultivated, yet two varieties are named: the French, of an ash-gray color; the Egyptian, with a dark skin and of an orange-red color inside. In 1834, seeds of the lentil were distributed from the United States Patent Office.