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What Are Lentils?


  • Name derived from lenticula (Latin for “lens”)
  • Lentils appear frequently in the Christian Bible
  • Ancient Greeks and Romans ate lentils

Scientific Name: Lens Culinaris

The Lentil Story

One of the first plants domesticated over 8,500 years ago, lentils were cultivated in the Fertile Crescent (the region around the Mediterranean Sea known as “the Cradle of Civilization”). References to lentils appear frequently in the Christian Bible (in the Book of Genesis, Esau sells his birthright to Jacob for lentils), and ancient Egyptians offered them as meals to feed the dead in the underworld. The ancient Greeks and Romans ate them, but lentils weren’t commonly eaten in Europe or America until the 20th century. Introduced by Spanish and Portuguese explorers as early as the 16th century, lentils were promoted during World War II as an alternative to meat, because of their low cost and availability. Today, lentils are a major part of the diet in India.

Like other pulses such as kidney beans, garbanzos, and split peas, lentils provide not only protein, but also the nutrients normally found in vegetables: potassium, folate, and dietary fiber. Lentils are popular in soups, casseroles, salads, and side dishes in cuisines worldwide.

Our favorite Lentil links:
Lentil Information from Alternative Field Crops Manual
Lentils: A Legume For The Ages from NPR
How to Cook Beans and Peas
How to Soak Your Beans
Lentil Recipes
Camellia Brand Lentils