Lens culinaris

Lens culinaris

Lentil (Lens culinaris Medik.) Is a dicotyledonous plant of the Fabaceae (or Leguminous) family, cultivated since antiquity. It is an annual plant, grown for edible seeds, rich in protein and iron.

Systematic –
From a systematic point of view, the lentil belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, the Kingdom Plantae, the Tracheobionta Subordination, the Magnoliophyta Division, the Magnoliopsida Class, the Rosidae Subclass, the Fabales Order, the Fabaceae Family, the Subfamily Faboideae and the Genera Lens and Species L. culinaris.

Etymology –
The generic term that has always identified the lentil is most likely to come from the Latin “lens” = lens, by the shape of the seeds of this legume. The specific term culinaris always from the Latin “culina” = kitchen, for its obvious culinary uses.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
This species originates from the warm temperate regions of the ancient and southeast world of Europe: Cyprus and Greece, Asia Minor and Near East: Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Caucasus and Central Asia : Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Established in the Mediterranean lies in the restricted area of ​​its coastline and with development in the area of ​​the Olive. Its habitat is that of the unripe and stony settlers, from the plane up to 1000 m. s.l.m ..

Description –
Lentil is a herbaceous annual plant, 20 cm to 70 cm high with straight and branched stems. Its leaves are alternate and composed (unequal with 10-14 oblong leaflets) and end with a generally simple twin or twig. They are fitted with toothed knobs. The flowers of this species are papillary corolla typical of the subfamily of the Faboideae, pale white or pale blue and gathered in two to four clusters. The chalice is smooth, with five thin teeth and relatively long. The lentil blooms between May and July.
The fruits are flattened, short, flattened pods, containing up to two seeds from the characteristic light-bent lens form. The color and size of the seeds varies according to the pale variety (light green, blond, pink) to darker (dark green, brown, violet).

Cultivation –
Lentil is one of the oldest food plants the man has known, and originated in the Middle East region of the “fertile Crescent” (Syria and northern Iraq), at the dawn of agricultural civilization, has spread all over the world.
In the world, 3.2 million hectares of lentil are grown, with a production of 3 million tons, corresponding to an average yield of about 900 kg / ha. Italy is a modest producer: less than 1,000 hectares of lentils. In Italy the lentils grown are local populations of small seed that enjoy their reputation for their quality: the lentils of Fucino, Castelluccio di Norcia, Villalba, Altamura, Pantelleria etc .. are very appreciated.
The lentil is widely cultivated in temperate, semi-arid areas where, thanks to the shortness of the biological cycle and the autumn-spring cycle, despite the recurrent drought, it is able to produce satisfactory but modest production of a high-value grain of high fat forage residues, precious for domestic animals bred in these regions.
In Italy the lentil is mainly located in narrow plateaus where climate and soil conditions give the highest quality of the product to the taste and ease of cooking.
As far as soil is concerned, the lentil exhibits a great adaptability also to medium and low fertility soil, of clayey-silt-sandy texture, albeit rich in skeleton, from sub-acid to sub-alkaline reaction.
Slightly suitable for lentils are the grounds of high fertility or excessive moisture, and saline ones. On limestone soil the lentil gives a little precious product, difficult to cook.
Almost all the lentils grown in the world still today are local populations (ecotypes) not undergoing serious genetic improvement work.
Just recently the lentil is subjected to selection to obtain more productive and easier to cultivate, by eliminating defects and changing the behavior. Important goals are as follows: increased resistance to cold, in order to extend the autumn sowing even in the mountains; erect growth, determined development and indefection of legumes to make mechanical harvesting possible; increased resistance to major adversity.
In semi-arid areas (between 250-350 mm of rain per year) where the lentil is predominantly widespread, it alternates with autumn cereal (wheat or barley), making it a good crop to be preceded by cereals .
Soil preparation should be done carefully by plowing in time, just after harvesting the cereal. Further refinement works are carried out to prepare the seedbed in autumn in the case of autumn sowing, in autumn and in winter in the case of spring sowing.
Sowing the lentil in Italy is done in November in the lowlands, in March-April in high altitude areas.
The most rational seeding technique is as follows: 300-400 seeds germinate per square meter, sown to files at 0.15-0.25 m depths of 40-60 mm according to the seed’s thickness (plus this is large, plus deep can be sown). The seed should be tanned to protect it from crop rotations.
Sufficient and sufficient seed amounts are 60-80 kg / ha for small seed lentils and 120-160 kg / ha for large seeds. Larger quantities can be used especially to hinder the growth of weeds. For sowing use common wheat seeders.

The fertilization of the lentil is still made today on average with 30 Kg / ha of P2O5; in potassium poor soil with 50-80 Kg / ha of K2O. Nitrogen is not necessary. In the case of the application of sustainable agriculture, it is increasingly recommended to increase rotations, the use of organic substances in the crops that precede it and completely eliminate the use of chemical fertilizers which represent a major burden for the ecological footprint of ‘ agriculture.
Pure weeds are a serious problem for the lentil which slowly begins to grow in the early phase of the cycle and is equipped with insufficient suffocating power. Machine strokes can not be done by the tight files, so hand scraping has been and is still the most used mudguard control system. Good results can be obtained with the technique of false sowing, with the increase in the sowing density and especially with more rotational rotations that over time make the predominance of some weed species lesser. This is one of the reasons why chemical fertilizers will be completely eliminated over time in favor of natural and internal inputs to the company.
Harvesting the present populations of lentils can not be done by hand when the plants begin to dry out. Cut, or more often, grubbed plants are left in the field arranged in heaps to complete the drying. After that they are transported to the place of the garnish. Only high-grain varieties and erect pores will be able to mechanize the harvester with direct harvester or mowing, drying of the hay and subsequent pick up of a combine harvester.
It would be advisable, especially for lentils, to use minitrailers for both the greater economy of these machines and the obviously smaller cultivation extension in our areas.
However, if the combine is to be used, it is evident that the cultivation ground will have to be more level and with a little coarse skeleton.
It may be considered a good production of 1.5-2 T / ha of dried seeds; much lower yields are made in marginal lands (mountains, highlands) where the lentil is often cultivated.
Grain production is accompanied by a production of residues which are a very appreciated fodder.
The seed in the warehouse must be protected from the attacks of the tuna with appropriate preparations.
Among the adversities it is noted that the lentil has phyto-sanitary problems that are generally less serious than other grain legumes, but several enemies may be able to limit their yields. Among the most important cryptogamic adversities we remember radical rotations and rust. Among the insects, the most serious damage is caused by turtle beetles of the genus Sitona (whose adults eat the leaves on the margins, while the larvae eat the roots and especially of the radical tubercles), the aphids and the moth Einheid zinckenella whose larvae roar legumes.
The lentil seeds in the warehouse are very exposed to the attacks of the tuna: Bruchus ervi and Callosobruchus chinensis. The oranges also attack the lentil, but it is not such a serious problem as for the bean.

Uses and Traditions –
Lentils have high nutritional value and contain about 25% protein, 53% carbohydrates and 2% vegetable oils. They are also rich in phosphorus, iron and vitamins from group B. They also have a high protein content, a good amount of sugar and a low amount of fat, in addition to being rich in vitamins, minerals and fibers. They are well-known in the prevention of atherosclerosis since the few fats contained therein are of unsaturated nature. The large amount of fiber makes it very important and useful for the functioning of the intestinal tract and to control the level of cholesterol. But that’s not all: the lentils also contain soflavones, substances that “cleanse” the body. Experts recommend that they consume them primarily because of their antioxidant properties that act positively on the pollutants to which we are all subject. Lentils are also very rich in thiamine, useful in improving storage processes, while the substantial content of vitamin PP makes them also the property of acting as a powerful nerve balance, with antidepressant and antipsychotic action. Finally, they are well-known to all those who need iron, while they are absolutely contraindicated in hyperuricemic subjects.
According to tradition, lentils symbolize prosperity and money, as they have a shape that remembers that of coins. For this reason, in Italy during the New Year’s Eve dinner, lentils are often eaten (often accompanied by zampone or cotechino) as a symbol of prosperity for the new year.
In Hebrew culture, lentils, along with eggs, are part of the traditional mourning ceremonies because their round shape symbolizes the life cycle from birth to death.
In Ethiopia stewed lentils called kik or kik wot accompany the injera focaccia, the national dish. Yellow-flavored lentils are also used to make a non-spicy stew that is one of the first solid foods for weaning children.
Lentil is one of the first domesticated species: archaeological evidence relating to the cave of Franchthi in Greece shows that it was eaten between 13,000 and 11,000 BC
It was therefore one of the first domesticated crops and its consumption is attested in the biblical episode of Esau, Genesis.
There are many varieties of culinary lenses around the world. In Europe, some cultivars have been considered typical products with endemic denominations (eg Puy AOC green lentil in France). In some cases, they are sold decorticated like coral or pink lentils or Petite Golden.
Commercially the cultivars can be divided according to the color – green (Richlea, Laird), yellow, red, brown (Masoul with brown peel and orange interior) – and the size (small, medium, large).
In Italy, the most popular lentil cultivars are:

– Lenticchia of Castelluccio di Norcia, protected geographical indication (I.G.P.) and protected designation of origin (D.O.P.);
– Sessanio Santo Stefano’s Lentil, a traditional agro-food product and Slow Food Presidium;
– Ustica lentil, traditional agro-food product and Slow Food presidium;
– Onano larch, traditional agro-food product and Slow Food presidium;
– Rascino Lentil, a traditional agro-food product and Slow Food Presidium;
– Altamura lentil, traditional agro-food product;
– Colfiorito larch, traditional agro-food product;
– Villalba lentil, traditional agro-food product;
– Ventotene lentil, traditional agro-food product;
– Valley of Agricultural Valley, traditional agro-food product;
– Black lentil of Leonforte or Mount Erei, a traditional agro-food product.

Preparation Method –
For the preparation of this legume, remember that only thick-sized lentils must be kept soaked before being cooked. The cooking time varies depending on the variety, then from a few minutes to 40 minutes. It is good to add salt only at the end of cooking.
The lentils recipes to remember are mainly:
– Trotter With Lentils;
– Pork sausage with lentils;
– Lentil soup;
– Lentil purée;
– Lentils soup;
– Lentils Salad;
– Stewed lentils;
– Pasta and lentils.
Of these preparations there are innumerable variants both locally and internationally, but it must be said that the result of the preparation of this legume is always very satisfactory.

Guido Bissanti

Sources
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. The Health of the Lord’s Pharmacy, Tips and Experiences with Medicinal Herbs, Ennsthaler Publisher
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora d’Italia, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (eds.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.

Caution: Pharmaceutical applications and surgical uses are indicated for information purposes only; they are not prescription-related in any way; Therefore, no liability is accepted for their use for any aesthetic or food purpose.


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