Lentils (Lens culinaris ssp. Culinaris) belong to the subfamily of butterflies (Faboideae) within the legume family (Fabaceae). Wild forms of the lentil originally come from the Mediterranean region and the Near East and were already important in Egypt and Rome over 8,000 years ago, as crops containing protein. The “lentil dish” is also mentioned in the Bible, which today in a figurative sense stands for an entertainingly desirable thing that one is willing to exchange for something that is actually much higher.
The legume, of which there are several types (Beluga lentils, red lentils, puy lentils and yellow lentils) are grown extensively in India and Canada. In Germany, due to the local conditions, only regions with poor soil, such as the Swabian Alb, are eligible. Lentils were cultivated there until the 20th century. Even today they are an integral part of many Swabian dishes. While lentils used to be considered “poor people’s food”, legumes have been valued again for some time as a protein-rich and tasty alternative to meat and are also grown in their own gardens.
Appearance and stature
Lentils are annual, herbaceous plants with slightly hairy stems that are between 20 and 50 centimeters high. As already mentioned, lentils belong to the legume family and can therefore accumulate nitrogen in the soil through bacteria in the root nodules. For this reason, they also serve as green manure for subsequent plants in the bed. Lentils have alternate, pinnate leaves with leaflets up to two centimeters long and about five millimeters wide. These form tendrils at the top.
From April to autumn lentil plants form racemose inflorescences with one to three flowers. The sepals are very hairy, the petals whitish-bluish to pale purple. Lentils reproduce mainly through self-fertilization.The legumes formed are up to two centimeters long and contain round, flat and one to two millimeters thick seeds.
Location and soil
As weak consumers , lentils prefer warm, sunny locations as well as calcareous, well drained and nutrient-poor soils. They also thrive in drought conditions on shallow soils made of gravel, shell limestone or limestone. Normal garden soil is too nutritious for lentils. They are attacked by fungal diseases very quickly and die there.
Crop rotation and mixed culture
As in commercial agriculture, lentils are usually cultivated in a mixed culture together with cereals such as oats, barley or millet, as these provide the necessary support for the climbing legumes. They also thrive and produce larger seeds in this society than if they were grown alone.
Sow the lentil seeds about four inches deep in late April or early May. Before doing this, loosen the soil and clear it of weeds . Make sure there is a distance of five centimeters in the row, a distance of about 20 centimeters is sufficient between the rows. This allows the plants to dry off well says rotavator spare parts dealer.
As a support, you can use dry branches in your own garden that you stick between the mostly 30 centimeter high lentil plants. Alternatively, small trellises are suitable , on which the plants can climb. Since lentils are not very competitive, it is important to remove weeds regularly. During the pod formation, you should water the plants moderately. If there is too much water, the flowers and fruits fall off quickly. Since lentils can produce nitrogen themselves, there is no need for fertilizers.
Harvest and recovery
Lentils ripen from the bottom up. This makes the harvest difficult, because while the lower pods are already brown and can be harvested, there are still green leaves on top. Depending on the time of sowing, lentils are usually ready to harvest from mid / late August. Then cut off all of the plants, leaving only the roots in the ground. First let the pods dry under a roof. To get the seeds out of the pods, place them in a cloth and tap the seeds out. Then it is necessary to separate the lenses from the remains of the sleeve. This is done by supplying air and sieving.
Lentils are good substitutes for meat because of their high protein content. They also contain a lot of minerals, fiber and vitamins and have a positive effect on the cholesterol level. Another advantage: lentils are easier to digest than peas and beans.
Before preparation, you should soak the legumes for three to four hours and then bring to the boil without salt. This way they soften faster. In addition to the traditional Swabian dish “lentils with spaetzle and string sausages”, the legumes taste good cooked and prepared as a salad, as a soup or in Indian dal. Dry lenses can be stored for a good year. To do this, store them in a cool, dry and dark place. Variety tips
There are numerous types of lentils that can be divided into two subgroups: the macrosperma group (large-seeded) and the microsperma group (small-seeded). To put it more simply, the spectrum ranges from flat plate lentils to yellow and red lentils to green-brown and nutty-tasting Puy lentils. Smaller-seeded lentils tend to be more aromatic. Red lentils are the smallest lentils and become soft after a short cooking time. They are suitable for soups or purees. Yellow lentils are very mild lentils that are often used in Indian dishes. Mountain lentils are red-brown and remain relatively firm to the bite after cooking. They are used for stews. Puy lentils are named after the Puy de Dôme regionnamed in France and are very small and gray-green to green-brown. They are characterized by an extremely nutty taste. Beluga lentils are small and black, they are reminiscent of caviar in appearance and have a particularly aromatic taste. In the Swabian Alb, historical types of lentils such as ‘Späths Hellerlinse’ or ‘Alplinse’ are sometimes grown. The ‘black lentil’ has blue flowers and small black seeds. The ‘champagne lens’ is a French winter lens that delivers large yields
Diseases and pests
If the weather is too humid, the roots of the lentil plants rot quickly. In addition, fungal diseases can occur. In addition to long planting distances and poor soil, airy locations can help, so that the plants can dry off quickly after rainfall. Holes and clear portholes in the lenses indicate lentil beetles laying their eggs in the pods. You can prevent bird damage by sufficiently covering the seeds with soil.