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Lentils: The World’s Oldest Crop

Lentils: The World’s Oldest Crop

For over 13 000 years, lentils have helped shape the course of human history. Today, we add lentils to tasty stews, soups and salads. In ancient times, however, lentils were an important part of establishing modern societies.

When humans started to move away from their nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyles, they looked to settle and form communities. To make settled civilisations possible, year-round food supplies had to be established, and that’s where our connection with different types of lentils began.

Lentils grow to a height of about 15 centimetres, with one or two seeds in each pod. They’re harvested as seeds and dried for storage. Lentils require very little water to grow and once they’re prepped for storage, they can be kept for up to a year. They’re also nutritious, filling and absolutely delicious. For these reasons and many more, early civilisations gravitated towards lentils as their crop of choice.

Look at how ingrained lentils have been in human life for millennia.

Lentils in Greece

Traces of lentils were found among ancient Greek ruins dating back to 6000 BC. Even though it’s suggested that the Greeks considered lentils to be food for the lower classes, the Greek playwright Aristophanes wrote that lentil soup was the “sweetest of delicacies.”

Lentils in Egypt

Unlike Ancient Greece, the Egyptians considered lentils to be food for the rich and powerful. Evidence of lentils in ancient Egyptian burial tombs suggests that lentils had been eaten in Egypt before 2600 BC.

Lentils in The Middle East

Fossilised lentils were also discovered along the banks of the Euphrates River, which runs through modern-day Syria. These lentils can be dated as far back as 8000 BC. Evidence of lentils has also been found in ancient ruins around Turkey, Iraq and Iran.

Lentils in Religious Texts

Lentils are older than the Bible, the Torah and the Quran! There is even a connection between these ancient religious texts and lentils. In biblical texts, there is a story of a man who gave away his inheritance for a single bowl of lentil soup. Judaism sees lentils as a food to consume during periods of great mourning as it is believed that the shape of a lentil reflects the circle of life. Lentils are also mentioned in various passages throughout the Quran.

Lentils have an impressive past, but also a promising future. As a water-conscious crop, lentils may play a big part in repairing the damage we have done to the environment in the modern world, that is why they form part of our 50 foods for the future. Try using lentils in your next dish as a delicious alternative to meat. Explore all our healthy, easy lentil recipes you can try.

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