Peas and beans once replaced lentils, also part of the legume family, from the food market. Today, this unique product – in a way, a newcomer to the domestic market – is making a comeback in our kitchens. Known for their medicinal and taste properties, lentils have been widely used in food since ancient Egypt, replacing many types of vegetarian dishes. It was considered food for the rich and inaccessible to the common man. Lentils are loved for their variety of flavors, ease and speed of preparation, and satiety (feeling of fullness) without overeating. Let’s get to know this crop starting with its beneficial properties. This article will teach you about the nutritional value of lentils, growing, caring, and harvesting of lentils.
USEFUL PROPERTIES OF LENTILS
Lentils are genetically adapted to the human digestive system. They contain high amounts of complex proteins and carbohydrates, thus ensuring a lasting feeling of satiety. A 100 g plate of lentils provides only 250-295 kcal. This protein is easily digestible (60% by weight) and can replace meat, especially when dieting.
It is digested better and faster and does not leave undigested stuff to rot in the stomach, causing heaviness and unpleasant belching. One serving of lentils can satisfy 90% of an adult’s daily folic acid requirement.
100 grams of lentils contain no more than 1 gram of fat. With this amount of fat – you won’t gain extra weight, but you will feel full, beautiful, and healthy. Replace lentils with noodles and porridge, and you will see that it was not without reason that Esau gave up his birthright in his time for lentil stew.
To understand the valuable properties of lentils, list the macro and micronutrients contained in these beans: calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, phosphorus, chlorine, sulfur, iron, zinc, aluminum, manganese, copper, selenium, cobalt, chromium, molybdenum, iodine, boron, silicon, nickel and titanium.
Lentils contain vitamins A, PP, E, B1, B2, B5, B6, B9 (folic acid), beta-carotene.
The popular claim that chocolate contains 5-hydroxytryptamine also applies to lentils. Lentils contain the amino acid tryptophan, which is metabolized in the body into serotonin, the so-called “happiness vitamin.” Serotonin affects mental stability, stamina and reduces periods of depression.
Therapeutic properties of lentils
- Lentils never accumulate nitrates, nitrites, radionuclides, and other substances toxic to human health, regardless of the growing conditions.
- Lentils strengthen the heart muscle and are involved in the hematopoietic process.
- They lower blood sugar levels. Lentil dishes are indispensable food for diabetics.
- Mashed potatoes, soups, and porridges are used in dietary therapy for ulcers and colitis.
- Even after heat treatment, lentils retain isoflavones, important substances for women’s health. They have a negative effect on cancer cells that cause breast cancer, significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, improve arterial elasticity and thus lower blood pressure, inhibit platelet activity, etc.
However, when incorporating lentils into your diet, do not forget the contraindications.
- in the case of kidney and genitourinary diseases.
- In liver diseases.
- In case of dysentery and gastrointestinal disorders.
- In the case of the acute stage of hemorrhoids.
- in case of gout.
- can reduce the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals.
Remember! It’s all good in moderation. Lentils are not supposed to be gluttonous.
Why is this crop so attractive, and why should you include it in your garden and summer house rotation?
BOTANICAL DESCRIPTION OF LENTILS
Common lentil is an annual herb with a height of 12-24 inches (30-60 cm). During growth and development, it forms a small shrub with slender, 4-headed erect stems that are sometimes semi-sloping or fully sloping. The stems of the lentil have a reddish hue and are covered with short, semi-hard hairs. The leaves are compound, paired petioles with varying numbers of leaflets.
There is a simple or branching tendril at the base of the petiole. There are stamens, the shape and size of which (as well as the leaves) vary from species to species. Lentils have short flower stems with 1-4 small butterfly-like white flowers and less frequently blue-blue or purplish-blue flowers.
The fruit of the lentil is a single-nested bean, double-leaved, diamond-shaped, elongated, and prone to dehiscence when the crop is overripe. The seeds (1-3) are flat or round. The seeds come in a variety of colors, yellow, green, pink, red, gray, brown, and black, with a dotted, mottled marbling pattern. The lentil has a taproot and sparsely branched leaves.
The common lentil, or edible lentil, or cultivated lentil (Lens culinaris) is a species of the genus Lentil (Lens) in the family Fabaceae (Leguminosae).
BIOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF LENTILS
The commonly cultivated lentil is subdivided into two subspecies.
- Large-seeded (slab) lentils, which are used as food.
- Small-seeded lentils, which are mainly used as protein-rich feed.
Unlike other legumes, lentils have relatively low heating requirements. Seeds germinate at 37-39 °F (3-4 °С). When 4 inches (10 cm) of soil is heated to 44-50 °F (7-10 °С), fast and rapid sprouting appears on the 6th-7th days. At lower temperatures sprouting appears on the 8th-12th days. Lentil sprouts can withstand frosts down to 23-26 °F (-5 to -3 °С). The optimal temperature for the growing season varies between 53-70 °F (12-21 °С).
Since lentils grow slowly before flowering, they need constant protection from weeds and an increased water supply.
Lentils start flowering on the 40th-45th day. From flowering to harvest, it outperforms other legumes in terms of drought and heat resistance. This characteristic allows lentils to be grown in dry areas.
Lentils grow well on moderately fertile, friable, permeable soils, forming fairly high yields: chestnut and light pods, loamy, sandy loam soils, rich in calcium compounds.
Lentils do not tolerate heavily compacted soils (chernozems), saline soils with low air exchange, acidity, and high groundwater content. On soils rich in humus and nitrogen, it forms mainly abundant asexual propagules. The maturity of the beans is not fixed, and their taste and quality characteristics decrease.
Lentils form nitrogen-fixing nodules in their roots, enriching the soil with nitrogen.
There is another feature to consider to make lentils grow and produce to the owner’s satisfaction. They are a long daylight crop and even 9-10 hours of daylight will not allow for proper development, let alone crop formation and maturity.
The place of lentils in the crop
If the garden is divided into seedbeds and the order of crops is observed, lentils are excellent precursors to potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, bell peppers, corn, carrots, beets, garlic, and other non-legume crops. Conversely, lentils do not need precursors, but the field must be free of weeds. It is best to put them back after 5-6 years to avoid infestation and accumulation of nematodes in the soil.
Preparing the soil for lentils
As a nitrogen store, lentils do not tolerate high levels of nitrogen in the soil. Therefore, it should not be included in the crop rotation until 2-3 years after manure application. If only mineral fertilizers were applied in previous years, the soil should be limed to remove accumulated acidity.
The soil should be amended in the fall with phosphate fertilizer (35-40 g/11 sq ft) and potash (20-30 g/11 sq ft) and re-tilled to a depth of 10-12 inches (25-30 cm).
For poor soils, add 20 grams of phosphate and 20 grams of potash per 11 square feet to the fall fertilizer application in the spring. If the soil is nutrient-poor, no fertilizer should be applied in the spring.
Seed preparation for lentils
Lentil varieties have a growing season of 2.5 to 4 months (75 to 115 days). To stay within sunlight hours, it is best to germinate lentil seeds before planting to shorten the time before planting.
Cover some hard surfaces with 2-3 layers of absorbent material, moisten with warm water, sprinkle a thin layer of seeds, cover with a damp cloth, and place in a warm place. Moisten the bedding and seeds 2-3 times a day. When the seeds germinate en masse, they are ready for sowing.
Once the soil in the 4 inches (10 cm) layer warms up to 44-46 °F (7-8 °С), you can start sowing lentils. Early sowing gives higher yields and is more resistant to pests and diseases.
When sowing, soil moisture is very important. Therefore, in dry spring, it is better to water the furrows before sowing.
Sow lentil seeds in rows, leaving 2-3 inches (5-8 cm) in each row and 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) between rows. The average depth of seed sowing was 2-2.3 inches (5-6 cm). The sowing area was lightly compacted to allow better integration with the soil. New shoots appeared on days 7-12.
Nutrition of lentils
Nourish lentils twice on poor soil. The first time the nutrient solution is given before flowering. The second time is when the beans are loaded. The best fertilizer is a micronutrient fertilizer, which contains water-soluble phosphorus and many micronutrients, including boron and molybdenum. Deficiencies in these micronutrients can cause the crop’s growing points to die.
In addition, molybdenum deficiency reduces the ability of bacteria to absorb nitrogen from the air and fix it in the nodules of the roots and then in the seeds. A micronutrient fertilizer can also be applied as a spring application in place of phosphorus and potassium fertilizer by applying 200-300 g/ha of wood ash in the soil between rows of shallow cultivation before lentil flowering.
Care and watering of lentils
Care during the growing season includes keeping the soil loose and free of weeds. During the flowering season, it is obligatory to remove lentils from Mikania micrantha, which can clog cultivated planting sites. It is very easy to distinguish between the two. The vetch flowers are dark pink and reddish-purple, while the flowers of lentils are white and pale pink.
Water lentils in moderation as needed before flowering. During the flowering period, provide adequate water, but do not over-water as this will cause fungal and bacterial diseases of the root system and the molded beans. After that, lentils require little or no watering.
Pest and disease protection for lentils
With high soil and air humidity, lentils are usually damaged by fungal and bacterial diseases (gray mold, fusarium, rust, powdery mildew, anthracnose, etc.). Insect pests include various types of aphids, grub moths, meadow moths, lentil weevils, etc. The main measure of weed protection is the correct and timely performance of all agrotechnical operations during sowing and care of the crop.
Only biological agents can be used for plant treatment. Biological agents such as “Phytosporin,” “Trichodermin,” etc., are particularly effective against diseases and pests. The dosage and duration of treatment are specified in the recommendations for each agent. Biological preparations can be used at any stage of plant development up to harvest. They are harmless to humans and animals.
HARVESTING AND STORING LENTIL CROPS
Lentils do not mature at the same time. Maturity starts from the beans below. When 2/3 of the bush is mature, the beans can be harvested. The bush is cut off at ground level, leaving the roots in the soil. Lentil bushes are harvested in the morning when there is dew to minimize the loss of beans from cracking. They were bundled into small bunches and hung in a ventilated place under the roof to dry. After a few days, the beans are threshed.
Once threshed, the lentils are cleaned of impurities, dried in the sun, and immediately packed in glass or metal containers, tightly sealed to prevent moisture. Beans are hygroscopic and will soon absorb moisture and begin to mold and rot. If beans are stored in cardboard boxes or canvas bags, they should be placed in a dark, cool, dry, well-ventilated room.
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