History of Lentils - Where do lentils come from?
Welcome to Quatr.us Study Guides!

History of Lentils


November 2016 - Lentils are a type of bean, native to West Asia. They grow on low bushes, and can do well with very little water. The lentils themselves are the seeds of the plant. People have surely been gathering and eating lentils since they first came to West Asia, about 60,000 years ago. By the time of the Neolithic, about 10,000 BC, West Asian farmers were deliberately farming lentils. Soon afterwards, people were farming lentils in Egypt and in Greece, and all across Central Asia too.

Lentil bush
A lentil bush

From that time to this, lentils have been an important part of what people ate in West Asia, Central Asia, North Africa, and all around the Mediterranean Sea. Mediterranean farmers planted lentils in the early spring and harvested them in late spring. Lentils have a lot of protein, and they're easy to cook by just boiling them in water to make lentil soup or lentil stew. And they taste good! In addition, lentils (and other beans like chickpeas) naturally add nitrogen to the soil, so they're a sort of fertilizer for wheat and barley.

Some time before 2500 BC, traders brought lentils from West Asia to northern Europe and to northern India, and from then on people also ate a lot of lentils in Europe and India, too. Lentils came with the Phoenicians to North Africa, about 800 BC if not before.

Around the time of Charlemagne (800 AD), people in medieval Europe started to plant a lot more lentils as part of three-field rotation: they planted a third of their fields in wheat and oats, a third in lentils, peas, or other beans, and a third was left to rest. Lentils both fertilized the wheat fields and provided another good source of protein.

Lentils came to East Africa with Indian traders, about this same time - 800 AD (or earlier). But people in China never really started eating a lot of lentils, because they had soybeans in China and they just kept on eating those.

Learn by doing - making lentil soup
More about West Asian food
What about chickpeas?

Bibliography and further reading about lentils:

Lentil Stew Recipe
Lentil Soup Recipe
More about West Asian food
Quatr.us home

LIMITED TIME OFFER FOR TEACHERS: Using this article with your class? Show us your class page where you're using this article, and we'll send you a free subscription so all your students can use Quatr.us Study Guides with no distractions! (Not a teacher? Paid subscriptions are also available for just $16/year!)
Please help other teachers and students find us: link to this page from your class page.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Cite this page
  • Author: K.E. Carr
  • Title:
  • Site Name: Quatr.us Study Guides
  • Publisher: Quatr.us
  • Date Published:
Did you find what you needed? Ask your teacher to link to this page so other people can use it too! Send it in and win a Quatr.us "Great Page!" award!
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Comment on This Article

Does your class page honor diversity, celebrate feminism, and support people of color, LBGTQ people, and people with disabilities? Let us know, and we'll send you a Diversity Banner you can proudly display!
Looking for more?
Quatr.us is loading comments...
(Comments will appear after moderation, if they are kind and helpful. Feel free to ask questions, and we'll try to answer them.)
Cite this page
  • Carr, K.E. . Quatr.us Study Guides, . Web. 28 April, 2017