The lentil (Lens culinaris) is a bushy annual legume with lens-shaped seeds. The plant originated and was among the first crops to be domesticated in the Near East. It a been a part of human diet since Neolithic times. A similarity in shape to the lentil, which is Latin for “lens”, also led to the eye’s borrowing the name for its optical lens. With about 25% of their calories from protein, lentils have the third highest level of protein by weight, of any legume or nut after soybeans and hemp. In addition to the high protein content, lentils are high in dietary fiber, folate, manganese, phosphorus and thiamin. Lentils are one of the best vegetable sources of iron and a good source of tannins. The seeds require a cooking time of 10 to 40 minutes, depending on the variety and they have a distinctive, earthy flavor.