1. Family: Fabaceae Lindl.
    1. Genus: Lens Mill.
      1. Lens culinaris Medik.

        Lens culinaris, commonly known as lentil, is an important food source for millions of people all over the world. Lentil belongs to the plant family Leguminosae, also known as Fabaceae and, like many legumes, it has the ability to fix nitrogen from the air through a symbiotic relationship with bacteria housed in root nodules. As a result, lentil is incredibly high in protein. In addition, lentil is a good source of vitamins A and B, fibre, potassium, and iron, making it a favourite for people on meat-free diets.

    [KSP]

    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description
    Widely cultivated for its nutritious seeds, lentil is thought to have originated in western Asia.

    Lens culinaris, commonly known as lentil, is an important food source for millions of people all over the world. Lentil belongs to the plant family Leguminosae, also known as Fabaceae and, like many legumes, it has the ability to fix nitrogen from the air through a symbiotic relationship with bacteria housed in root nodules. As a result, lentil is incredibly high in protein. In addition, lentil is a good source of vitamins A and B, fibre, potassium, and iron, making it a favourite for people on meat-free diets.

    Species Profile

    Geography and distribution

    Lentil is an ancient food crop which is thought to have originated in western Asia and then been spread by humans into the Mediterranean region, Asia, Africa and Europe.

    The earliest archaeological remains of lentil are from Greece and dated to 11,000 BC. However, there is some uncertainty over whether these seeds are from domesticated plants or from wild ones. Further archaeological findings dated to 5,000 BC unequivocally indicate that domesticated lentil seeds were around at that time.

    Lentil held great importance in ancient civilizations inspiring legends and customs. It is the first pulse crop mentioned in the Bible. Ancient Greeks, Romans and Jews commonly ate lentil as a part of their diet, and, for the poor in particular, lentil was a vital source of nutrients and energy.

    Today, lentil is eaten in many parts of the world. It is cultivated in temperate and subtropical regions, and in the tropics farmers take advantage of cooler seasons and higher elevations to grow the crop.

    Description

    Overview: Lens culinaris is an erect, pale green annual herb up to 75 cm tall. Its main stem is square in cross-section, and from it many branches extend.

    Leaves:The pinnately compound leaves are arranged alternately along the stem. Each leaf consists of 5-16 leaflets which are inserted along the leaf’s central axis (the rachis).

    Flowers:The stalked flowers are arranged along an unbranched axis (a raceme). The racemes are about 7-flowered and axillary (arising from the point between the main stem and a leaf). The flowers are pale blue, white or pink and are papilionaceous, typical of species belonging to the Leguminosae subfamily Papilionoideae, and resemble, for example, the pea ( Pisum sativum) flower. Each flower has 10 stamens (male reproductive organs) 9 of which are fused into a partial tube, with the tenth stamen free. The ovary (female reproductive organ) is positioned above the sepals, petals and stamens. The style is inflexed (bent inwards) and its inner surface is bearded.

    Fruit: The fruit is a 6-20 mm long x 3-12 mm wide pod containing up to 3 seeds. The seeds are lens-shaped, 2-9 mm long x 2-3 mm wide and can be grey, green, brownish green, pale red speckled with black or pure black in colour.

    Uses

    Lentil seeds are a popular ingredient in soups and stews. They add flavour, protein and are rich in important vitamins and minerals. Lens culinaris is cultivated primarily for its edible seeds, which come in a variety of different colours, from yellow to orange, green and black reflecting their different tastes and nutritional composition.

    Lentils play a major part in Ethiopian cuisine and each preparation has its own name. The sauce made from split seeds is called 'kik wot', boiled and salted lentils are termed 'nufro', cooked and mashed lentils is 'azifa' and 'elbet' is a word to describe the paste made from the flour.

    In other parts of the world, lentils are used in salads, prepared into lentil burgers (with coriander-yoghurt sauce) and mixed with vegetables and mashed potato to make cottage pie, to name a few examples. In India, (split seed) dhal is used in soups and is consumed widely with nearly every meal.

    The seeds can be ground to make flour which is used in cakes and bread. The young pods, sprouted seeds and leaves are eaten as a vegetable.

    As well as being an excellent food source for humans, the high protein content of lentils makes them good for feeding animals, particularly poultry. The husks, bran and fresh or dried leafy stems are also used for fodder, especially in the Middle East and North Africa. Some people grow lentil for forage or as green manure and sometimes lentils are used as a source of starch for the textile and printing industries. Lentil straw can be used for fuel.

    Lentil seeds can be eaten medicinally as a remedy for constipation and other digestive ailments and, in India, the seeds are applied as a poultice to slow-healing sores. In Ethiopia, lentil is reputed to be an aphrodisiac.

    Crop wild relatives of lentil

    The 'Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change' project organised by the Millennium Seed Bank and the Global Crop Diversity Trust aims to collect, protect and prepare the seeds of the wild relatives of 29 key crop species, including lentil, so that pre-breeders can make use of the incredible genetic diversity they hold for the improvement of agriculture and to safeguard our future food security.

    Millennium Seed Bank: Seed Storage

    The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plants worldwide, focusing on those plants which are under threat and those which are of most use in the future. Once seeds have been collected they are dried, packaged and stored at -20°C in our seed bank vault.

    Description of seeds:Average 1,000 seed weight = 35.2 gNumber of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank:TwoSeed storage behaviour:Orthodox (the seeds of this plant can be dried to low moisture content without significantly reducing their viability. This means they are suitable for long-term frozen storage such as at the MSB)Germination testing: Successful

    Distribution
    Greece
    Ecology
    Sandy or clay soils in warm temperate and tropical zones.
    Conservation
    Unknown in the wild but widespread in cultivation.
    [KSP]
    Use
    Food, fodder, medicine, lentil starch used in printing, soil fertiliser.

    Images

    Distribution

    Found In:

    Afghanistan, Colombia, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan

    Introduced Into:

    Albania, Algeria, Altay, Assam, Austria, Azores, Baltic States, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bulgaria, Canary Is., Central European Rus, China North-Central, China South-Central, China Southeast, Corse, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, East Aegean Is., East European Russia, East Himalaya, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Inner Mongolia, Italy, Jawa, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kirgizstan, Krasnoyarsk, Kriti, Krym, Lebanon-Syria, Libya, Madeira, Mauritius, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Nepal, New Guinea, North Caucasus, North European Russi, Northwest European R, Palestine, Portugal, Rodrigues, Romania, Réunion, Sardegna, Sicilia, South European Russi, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tadzhikistan, Tanzania, Tibet, Transcaucasus, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, West Himalaya, West Siberia, Xinjiang, Yemen, Yugoslavia, Zimbabwe

    Common Names

    English
    Lentil

    Lens culinaris Medik. appears in other Kew resources:

    First published in Vorles. Churpfälz. Phys.-Ökon. Ges. 2: 361 (1787)

    Accepted in:

    • [1] Dimpoulos, P., Raus, T., Bergmeier, E., Constantinidis, T., Iatrou, G., Kokkini, S., Strid, A., & Tzanoudakis, D. (2013) Vascular plants of Greece. An annotated checklist . Botanic gardens and botanical museum Berlin-Dahlem, Berlin and Hellenic botanical
    • [2] (2012) Index synonymique de la flore d'Afrique du nord 4: 1-431. Éditions des conservatoire et jardin botaniques, Genève.
    • [4] (2011) Saussurea; Travaux de la Société Botanique de Genève 41: 131-170
    • [12] (2003) Flora Zambesiaca 3(7): 1-274. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • [13] Kumar, S. & Sane, P.V. (2003) Legumes of South Asia. A Checklist . Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • [15] Wood, J.R.I. (1997) A handbook of the Yemen Flora . Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • [16] Yakovlev, G.P., Sytin, A.K. & Roskov, Y.R. (1996) Legumes of Northern Eurasia. A checklist . Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • [19] (1990) Flore des Mascareignes 80: 1-235. IRD Éditions, MSIRI, RBG-Kew, Paris.
    • [20] (1989) Med-checklist 4: 1-458. Conservatoire et Jardin Botaniques de la Ville de Genève.
    • [21] Lock, J.M. (1989) Legumes of Africa a check-list . Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • [24] Tutin, T.G. & al. (eds.) (1968) Flora Europaea 2: 1-469. Cambridge University Press.

    Literature

    • [3] (2012) Indian Journal of Forestry 35: 79-84
    • [5] (2011) Saussurea; Travaux de la Société Botanique de Genève 41: 131-170
    • [6] Beentje, H. (2010). The Kew Plant Glossary: an Illustrated Dictionary of Plant Terms. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • [7] Flora of China Editorial Committee (2010) Flora of China 10: 1-642. Science Press (Beijing) & Missouri Botanical Garden Press (St. Louis).
    • [8] Mabberley, D.J. (2008). Mabberley’s Plant-book: a Portable Dictionary of Plants, their Classification and Uses. Third edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
    • [9] Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (2008). Seed Information Database (SID). Version 7.1.
    • [10] Brink, M. & Belay, G. (2006). Cereals and Pulses: Volume 1 of Plant Resources of Tropical Africa. PROTA.
    • [11] Lock, J.M. & Ford, C.S. (2004) Legumes of Malesia a Check-List . Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • [14] Kumar, S. & Sane, P.V. (2003) Legumes of South Asia. A Checklist . Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • [17] Yakovlev, G.P., Sytin, A.K. & Roskov, Y.R. (1996) Legumes of Northern Eurasia. A checklist . Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • [18] Lock, J.M. & Heald, J. (1994) Legumes of Indo-China a checck-list . Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • [22] Duke, J. A. (1981). Handbook of Legumes of World Economic Importance. New York: Plenum Press.
    • [23] (1979) Flora Iranica 140: 1-89. Naturhistorisches Museums Wien.
    • [25] Tutin, T.G. & al. (eds.) (1968) Flora Europaea 2: 1-469. Cambridge University Press.

    Sources

    International Plant Names Index
    The International Plant Names Index (2016). Published on the Internet http://www.ipni.org
    [A] © Copyright 2016 International Plant Names Index. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

    Kew Species Profiles
    Kew Species Profiles
    [B] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
    [C]

    World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
    World Checklist of Selected Plant Families(2016). Published on the Internet http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
    [D] See http://kew.org/about-kew/website-information/legal-notices/index.htm You may use data on these Terms and Conditions and on further condition that: The data is not used for commercial purposes; You may copy and retain data solely for scholarly, educational or research purposes; You may not publish our data, except for small extracts provided for illustrative purposes and duly acknowledged; You acknowledge the source of the data by the words "With the permission of the Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew" in a position which is reasonably prominent in view of your use of the data; Any other use of data or any other content from this website may only be made with our prior written agreement. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
    [E] © Copyright 2016 International Plant Names Index and World Checkist of Selected Plant Families. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0