Lentils are legumes that generally have a rich nutty flavor. They are grown in pods, which contain one or two seeds each. There are many varieties that are classified as large or small and are round, oval or heart shaped. Lentils cook much faster than dried beans and do not require soaking. Lentil seeds are sold whole or split and some have had the hulls removed. The green and brown lentils, which hold their shape best after cooking, are the most common types. Lentils have good nutritional value, containing dietary fiber, B-vitamins, protein, and hardly any calories.
Lentils are generally used in soups and stews. Green and brown lentils hold their shape fairly well if not overcooked and can be added to salads and other dishes. The varieties that are soft after cooking are used mainly to thicken stews and soups or are made into purees.
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