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lentil

lentil, leguminous Old World annual plant (Lens culinaris) with whitish or pale blue flowers. Its pods contain two greenish-brown or dark-colored seeds, also called lentils, which when fully ripe are ground into meal or used in soups and stews. Probably indigenous to SW Asia, and known to have been used as early as the Bronze Age, the lentil was introduced to Greece and Egypt before biblical times and was one of the first food plants cultivated in Europe. Esau sold his heritage for a mess of lentils—although the name in the Scriptures may have been applied to several plants. Lentils are unusually high in protein content and are much used for food in Europe, especially by the poor, and increasingly in the United States. Many varieties are cultivated, for the seeds as well as for forage. Lentil seeds, from their shape, gave their name to the magnifying lens. The gulfweed (see seaweed) is sometimes called sea lentil. Lentils are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Rosales, family Leguminosae.

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lentil

len·til / ˈlent(ə)l/ • n. 1. a high-protein pulse that is dried and then soaked and cooked before eating. 2. the plant (Lens culinaris) that yields this pulse, native to the Mediterranean and Africa.

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lentil

lentil Annual plant of the pea family that grows in the Mediterranean region, sw Asia and n Africa. It has feather-like leaves and is cultivated for its nutritious seeds. Height: to 51cm (20in). Family Fabaceae/Leguminosae; species Lens culinaris.

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lentil

lentil XIII. — (O)F. lentille :- Rom. *lentīcula, for L. lenticula, dim. of lēns, lent- lentil.

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lentil

lentil •anthill • Edgehill • sidehill • molehill •foothill • dunghill •sigil, strigil, vigil •strongyle • Virgil • Gaitskell • orchil •roadkill • Danakil • overkill •amyl, Tamil •treadmill • windmill • gristmill •sawmill • watermill • vinyl • mini-pill •overspill • Caryl •mandrel, mandrill •Avril •beryl, Cheryl, chrysoberyl, imperil, Merrill, peril, Sheryl •tendril • April • Cyril • fibril • nombril •nostril • Bovril • tumbril • escadrille •espadrille • gracile • Cecil • utensil •codicil • windowsill •dactyl, pterodactyl •pastille • standstill •dentil, lentil, ventil •quintile • pistil • postil • tormentil •ethyl

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Lentil

LENTIL

LENTIL (Heb. עֲדָשָׁה, adashah, pl. עֲדָשִׁים, adashim), the legume Lens esculenta, one of the earliest of the flora of Israel. Remains dating to over 3,000 years ago have been discovered in excavations and in Egyptian tombs of the 12th dynasty as food for the dead. In the Bible they are mentioned as the red "pottage of lentils" for which Esau sold his birthright to Jacob (Gen. 25:29–34). They were supplied by Barzillai the Gileadite to David's forces (ii Sam. 17:28), and were included in the bread mixture that the prophet Ezekiel was commanded to eat for 390 days (Ezek. 4:9–10). In mishnaic and talmudic times, lentils were the most important of the legumes and many details about them occur in this literature. They lie on the surface of the ground, hence the expression "as lowly as the lentil" (tj, Sanh. 2:5, 20b). The seed is like a discus – "round like a sphere" and has no protuberance – "the lentil has no mouth." The custom therefore obtained of providing mourners with lentils to eat, to symbolize that "the mourner has no mouth," i.e., is obliged to be silent, and that mourning is "a wheel that revolves throughout the world," all men being mortal (bb 16b; Gen. R. 63:14).

In addition to the species with a reddish seed there was a dark brown species (tj, Shab. 7:6–end, 10d). Lentils were essentially the food of the common people; fastidious people who abstained from eating them suffered harm when obliged to do so (Ket. 67b). On the other hand it is mentioned that lentils were served at the table of Rabban Simeon b. Gamaliel (Beẓah 14b). Like other legumes they leave a bad smell in the mouth but they are noted as a remedy for diphtheria (Ber. 40a). A delicacy called ashishim was sometimes prepared from them. It consisted of "ground roast lentils kneaded in honey and fried" (tj, Ned. 6:15, 40a). This is apparently the scriptural ashishah ("sweet cake"; i Chron. 16:3), regarded as a cure for lovesickness (Song 2:5).

bibliography:

Loew, Flora, 2 (1924), 442–52; H.N. and A.L. Moldenke, Plants of the Bible (1952), index; J. Feliks, Olam ha-Ẓome'aḥ ha-Mikra'i (19682), 159–61. add. bibliography: Feliks, Ha-Ẓome'aḥ, 108.

[Jehuda Feliks]

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