A few days ago I decided that I would make lentils for dinner, but when I reached into the storage tin where I keep them I found it to be nearly empty. I like the small green and blue speckled “French” lentils (also known as Lentilles du Puy) which, while not overly difficult to find, are not typically stocked at most of the places I usually shop at. Over the weekend I had a chance to go to one of the co-ops where they are sold in bulk and picked up a new supply which should last me into the summer. I had not been to this particular store for some time, and while I had been away someone had gone through the bulk bins and put a sticker on those which were good for sprouting. It had never really occurred to me that lentils could be sprouted, but they are after all seeds, and seeds can be sprouted.
It is occasionally starting to feel like spring, and with spring comes the annual decision about what to plant in the garden. By the time I had driven home, the bag of lentils and the thought of sprouting had merged into the idea of planting them. On an initial look it was less unreasonable than it might at first appear. Lentils are legumes, like soybeans, and soybeans are regularly planted in the fields around Rurikia. Since the lentils were listed as being good for sprouting I knew I had several pounds of viable seed when I would need less than an ounce for planting, and lentils are a staple part of diets in so many parts of the world that it seemed they could grow just about anywhere.
At this point, however, Gardenomics came into play. To harvest, lentils need to fully mature and dry on the plant, then the pods must be picked, shelled and separated. Considering that each lentil is about 1/8 inch in diameter, that comes out to lots of work for relatively little reward, particularly when they can be bought year-round in a ready to use state for $2.99 a pound. In a non-self-sufficient gardening environment this comes out as a waste of space and effort which could be better utilized for “higher value” purposes, such as veg that is eaten fresh where the “freshness factor” is a primary driver (tomatoes come to mind), or alternately something which is hard to find or prohibitively expensive in the shops (white eggplant). This is in effect the same reason why I tend not to plant the major commercial varieties in the orchyard and focus instead on lesser known ones.
As for the lentils I purchased, they found their way into one of my favorite cool weather quick meals:
1 handful Lentilles du Puy per person
Twice as much cold water as lentils
1 highly flavored sausage per person (Andouille, Mergez, Hot Links, etc…)
Put the lentils and water in a pot and place, covered, on moderate heat until boiling. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the liquid level has reached the top of the lentils. Add the thyme and mushrooms and stir to incorporate, then place the sausages on top of the lentils. Cook until the liquid level is about halfway through the lentils. Using a fork, puncture the sausage casings several times per sausage, then fold the sausages under the lentils. Cook until the liquid level is nearly at the bottom of the pot and taste a lentil. If it is still hard add a small amount of water and continue until the lentils are fully cooked, otherwise serve.