Maybe you remember, Uncle Scrooge’s favorite lenses are from Babylonia.
But nevertheless, the tiny lentil plant at the end of the comic „The Lentils from Babylon“* does not look so realistic.
Taking a look at real lentils plants is also possible in Europe, e.g.
in France around Le Puy – along the Camino de Santiago -,
in Italy on the Umbrian plateau around Castelluccio or
in Germany in the Swabian Alb.
But still, they are easy to miss: they are usually cultivated together with grain in the fields. The cornstalks serve as important trellises, because the lentil plants can not stand on their own and get quickly moldy when pressed down to the ground by heavy rain.
Their delicate leaves may seem fragile, but lentils belong like beans and peas to the legume family, and are known for their sturdy and unpretentious nature for climate and soil. By the nodule bacteria in their roots – that convert nitrogen from the air into nutrients in the soil -, they have always their own fertilizer with them. Their deep growing roots also loosen the soil very well.
Nonetheless, most lentils are exported, that means, not eaten where grown.
The main growing areas are India (about 50 different types of lentils), Canada and Turkey. Germany is back on place 16. Only until recently, lentils were completely gone from german fields. The harvesting and cleaning of the lentils is very costly, so in the 1960s the farmers switched to the more profitable cultivation of grain. As a result, old native varieties such as the “ Späth Alblinse I and II “ died out. When in the 1980s Woldemar Mammel started to grow lentils in the Swabian Alb, he had to resort to French seeds. The demand for his organically grown and GMO-free lentils was immediately stunning, before in 2006 a miracle happened : The extinct believed “ Späth Alblinsen I and II “ were discovered in a seed bank in St. Petersburg (Russia)!
In laborious work, Woldemar Mammel bred from the few seeds enough for sowing. From 2011 on, the “ Späth Alblinse II “ can be bought in the region of the Swabian Alb, the „Späth Alblinse I“ followed one year later.