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By M. Núñez and C. Navarro (health), Santi Ávalos (kitchen)
These tiny, iridescent gourmet lentils grow in volcanic soils and in a climate that gives them a unique flavor and great mineral and antioxidant richness. That is why they are protected by a designation of origin.
The plant of this legume was baptized in 1930 by the Russian botanist Helena Barulina as Lens culinaris puyensis. Later it has been called Lens esculenta puyensis. The climate of Le Puy-en-Velay, a town in the Haute-Loire department of the Auvergne region in central France, is cold in winter, and windy and dry in summer. The volcanic land is very fertile. The fame of these firm, thin-skinned lentils, which do not require prior soaking, caused astute traders to import legumes from Germany and Russia at the beginning of the 20th century to pack them as if they were from the region. To avoid deception, in 1935 the courts recognized the denomination of origin "Lenteja Verde de Puy". Today the authenticity is guaranteed and they are sold in our country for about six euros per kilo.
Antioxidants and proteins
The fruits are pods, which normally contain two seeds that are dark green and mottled with blue, due to the presence of anthocyanins. These pigments are compounds with a powerful antioxidant effect that protect against cancer, cardiovascular diseases or the decline of intellectual faculties.
In addition, the Puy lentil is a great food, rich in amino acids that are easy to assimilate, especially when combined with rice, bread, nuts or seeds. The high proportion of amino acids makes 100 grams of cooked lentils (50 dry) considered a protein serving, equivalent to about 60 grams of meat.
Fine skin and rich in fiber
The fiber content, although lower than in ordinary lentils, favors digestion and the good state of the intestinal flora, and as the skin is much thinner, it hardly causes flatulence. Slowly absorbed carbohydrates provide energy gradually, without causing ups and downs in insulin production or blood glucose.
In a balanced diet, especially if you are vegetarian, it would be advisable to eat lentils, from 50 to 80 grams dry, at least once a week. They are especially recommended for children, as they contribute to their proper development, and for people who make intellectual or physical efforts. Nor should it be abused, since consumed with excessive frequency, they can contribute to the acidification of the body, which can induce fatigue, lack of concentration, ease of contracting infections, joint pain, heartburn or bad breath.
A very versatile legume
Among the qualities that have made the Puy lentil famous are its fine texture and mild, somewhat sweet flavor, which combines well with hot spices and Mediterranean aromatic plants. In addition, as it has little starch, it is not mealy at all. It is a lentil that bursts in your mouth when you eat it, but remains consistent when cooked.
It is better not to soak it, as this will take a little longer to cook and give it time to absorb the flavors. As it is not very porous, it is more difficult for it to absorb the aromas.
Once cooked, this legume is ideal for preparing salads. They can also be germinated, and if it is made at home, it is convenient to consume them in a week so that they do not lose their freshness.
When buying and keeping them it is important to check that they give off a fresh smell and that they are not cracked or wrinkled, which would mean that they are too old.