Morrison, Kenneth J. Cooperative Extension Service, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington.
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A semi-viny annual legume, Lens culinaris (alternatively Lens esculenta), having pinnately compound, vetchlike leaves, and slender tufted and branched stems, cultivated for its thin, lens-shaped, edible seed. The lentil plant was one of the first crops to be cultivated by humans. It has been found in the Bronze Age ruins of the ancient lake dwellings of St. Peter's Island, Lake Biel (Lake Bienne), Switzerland. Lentils also have been discovered in Poland dating back to the Iron Age. In the Bible, the "red pottage" for which Esau gave up his birthright to his brother Jacob was probably lentil soup. Large-seeded lentils originated in the Mediterranean region, whereas medium-sized lentils originated in the inner mountains of Asia Minor. Afghanistan was the original home of the smallest-seeded lentils. See also: Domestication (anthropology); Fabales; Horticultural crops; Legume
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