We love all lentils, from the famous French green to yellow and red, but black lentils are in a legume of their own. These diminutive pulses are one of the earliest cultivated crops and according to Ken Albala in his book Beans, A History this changed the course of human history, paving the way to modern civilization. They most likely made their way from a wild seed foraged by hunter gatherers to a cultivated food crop over 10,000 years ago in the area historians call the Fertile Crescent (now modern day Turkey, Iraq and Syria). Black lentils are called Beluga Lentils because of their shiny black skin and small size, resembling that of caviar. Fun fact: unlike green lentils, black lentils possess anthocyanins – the same powerful antioxidant found in dark berries like blueberries and blackberries.
WHAT TO DO WITH THEM
Beluga lentils cook up quickly with no need to soak. They hold their shape well so they are excellent for salads and their resemblence to caviar makes them a striking addition to many recipes. To cook them rinse them in a strainer and then add 4 cups of water or stock per one cup of lentils, add a teaspoon of salt, aromatics like a bay leaf, and bring on the flavor party with garlic, chili flakes, garlic and onion if you so desire. Bring to a boil then simmer for 15-20 minutes until they are just al dente in texture. As you cook them they will fade from pure black to dark green. In the dish above we enhance the color with a dash of balsamic vinegar.
We were still enjoying some late season heirloom tomatoes so we couldn't resist creating this easy early fall salad of Beluga Lentils with Burrata, Heirloom Tomatoes and Basil Chimichuri. We're obsessed with this loaded sweet potato recipe from Bon Appetite. With pan crisped sweet potatoes, feta and chili flakes it's a party for your palette any day of the week. This Creamy Mushroom and Black Lentil Stew by Rainbow Plantlife is positively drool-worthy. We are definitely putting this recipe on repeat all fall and winter.
ABOUT THE FARMER
When it comes to ancient grains and farming, Larry Kandarian is legendary. Meeting Larry at the Santa Monica farmers market feels like meeting an agricultural prophet. He can talk to you all day about varieties of beans and grains you've never heard of and how going beyond just organic to fully sustainable and regenerative farming creates better tasting food. His deeply weathered hands from over 50 years working in the fields, let you know that he's the real deal. Unlike others, Larry doesn't just own a farm, he is a true farmer. He is passionate about growing better tasting food that is also better for us and the planet. His incredibly diverse array of grains, legumes, herbs and spices grown in Los Osos, California are all carefully chosen heirloom varieties that work together to create a self-sustaining eco-system that requires no fertilizer, pesticides or weed killers. All of this leads to better soil health, and when you grow food in better soil it just tastes better.