Lentils (Lens culinaris) are a small legume of the pea family with round, flattened seeds in pods. The Latin name for lentils, 'lens' gives us the name for the lentil-shaped piece of convex glass. They are grown for there seeds, which are dried and used in soups and stews, and are also ground into a flour. The plant itself is used as fodder.
The Lentil is most likely the oldest cultivated legume, and is believed to be native to southwestern Asia, perhaps northern Syria. Seeds have been found in Egyptian tombs dating from the 12 Dynasty (2400 B.C.), and there is also evidence of their cultivation as early as 6,000 B.C. Lentils are widely cultivated throughout Asia, parts of Europe and North Africa, and more than 5 million acres are grown worldwide (1990). They are a staple in much of the Middle East and India.
Lentils are rich in protein and carbohydrates, and are a good source of calcium, phosphorus, iron and B vitamins. Lentils are found in various colors, white, green, red, yellow, brown, and orange, and are sold dried, like beans.