Can you grow lentils from the grocery store?
Yes, lentils from the grocery store will germinate like any other seed and grow into plants.
For home growers, lentils are usually sprouted and grown as microgreens rather than as a seed-yielding crop.
Seed-yielding lentils are commercially grown as a field crop, and to be perfectly honest, they aren’t well suited to home growing.
You’ll be able to decide whether you want to go to the effort of growing lentils after you read the details in this post.
Can You Grow Lentils At Home?
Lentils can be grown at home in two ways.
You can sprout the seed and grow trays of microgreens.
Or, you can grow lentil plants for a harvest of dried lentils.
Microgreens are extremely easy to grow, and are a nutritious addition to salads and green juices. Growing lentils this way, is worth doing.
Lentil plants are straightforward to grow too, but you won’t get many lentils at harvest time from the few plants most gardeners would have room to grow.
In my opinion, growing lentils for seed pod harvest isn’t worth the effort or the growing space.
How Do You Germinate Lentils?
Sow lentils in late April, or 3 weeks before your last frost date.
Lentils are a cool season crop, so later sowings won’t grow as well.
Ideal growing season temperatures for lentils are 65 F (18 C) early in the season, to 85 F (29 C) as the pods mature.
To germinate lentils for growing into full-sized plants, choose an area that gets plenty of sun.
Prepare your growing bed by removing weeds, then rake the soil to remove any stones and to break down large clumps of soil.
Add a layer of compost or potting mix to give your young plants plenty of nutrients when they germinate.
Water the soil so the entire surface is moist.
Sow seeds 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep, leaving 1 inch (2.5 cm) between seeds. Rows should be 18 – 24 inches (45 cm – 60 cm) apart.
Cover with more potting mix, and use a fine rose head on a watering can or garden hose to lightly water the surface.
After 10 days, you should see tiny lentil seedlings emerge.
Keep the plants weed-free and give each plant about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water per week while they grow.
How Are Lentils Harvested?
Lentils will mature in about 80 days if you want to harvest the green pods and use them like green beans or snap peas.
Leave the pods longer, until about 120 days, if you want to harvest dried lentils.
Wait for the pods to turn brown and dry.
Each pod contains 1 or 2 lentils.
Harvest the pods and drop them into a sack or pillowcase for threshing. Stomp up and down all over it, to crush the pods and release the lentils.
Then, you need to winnow the whole lot to separate the lentils from the remains of the pods (the chaff).
Use two baskets or other containers, and pour your crushed lentil pods from one basket to the other, back and forth.
Do this outside when a breeze is blowing, or plug a fan into an extension cord and point it at your baskets while you work
The breeze will blow away the chaff, and after a while you will be left with some lentils.
How To Sprout Lentil Microgreens
Sprouting lentil microgreens is very easy.
You’ll need 2 sprouting trays. One with a solid bottom – this will be the bottom tray. And and one with perforations so water can drain away – this will be the top tray.
Soak your lentils for 24 hours to speed germination.
Place your top tray over the bottom tray, and add 1 inch of regular potting mix or compost to the perforated try, then spray with water to wet the soil.
Sprinkle your lentil seed over the surface, sowing thickly.
Cover with a thin layer of potting mix and spray with more water.
Any excess water will drain away into the bottom tray.
How Long Do Lentil Microgreens Take To Sprout?
Place your tray in a warm spot and in about 5 days you’ll have germination.
Then, all you need to do is keep your microgreens watered, and in a place where they get plenty of light
When the seedlings are about 10 days old, you can harvest your crop! Just trim the microgreens with scissors.
Frequently Asked Questions About Lentils
Are Chickpeas The Same As Lentils?
No. They’re both pulses, but they aren’t the same.
Chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) are a large, creamy colored pulse; while lentils are very small flat pulses, which come in a variety of colors – green, red, brown, blonde, coral, yellow and orange.
If you plant chickpeas, you won’t get a crop of lentils.
Are Green Lentils Puy?
Puy lentils are green lentils, but not all green lentils are Puy lentils.
The Puy lentil is a particular type of green lentil, and it’s only grown in the Puy prefecture (district) in France.
This lentil has Protected Designation of Origin status in the European Union and only lentils from the Puy region can be sold as Puy lentils.
If you want an extra peppery green lentil, look for Puy lentils.
What’s The Difference Between Green Lentils And Red Lentils?
The main difference between these lentils is the way they hold together when they’re cooked.
Green lentils retain their shape and texture well when cooked, while red lentils quickly break down into a creamy mush.
Their differing qualities make them suited for different purposes.
Green lentils are great in lentil burgers and salads, and they make a fantastic substitute for ground beef in a bolognese sauce.
Red lentils are better for thickening soups and sauces, adding to curries, and for making dahl.
What Happens If You Don’t Soak Lentils Before Cooking?
A far as I know nothing happens if you don’t soak lentils, and I cook lentils without any soaking a couple of times a week.
Beans do need soaking to reduce their tendency to cause uncomfortable bloating and embarrassing gas.
Beans have a high concentration of complex carbohydrate molecules called oligosaccharides.
Soaking the beans in a couple of changes of water removes a lot of the troublesome oligosaccharides (as much as 88%) which makes the beans much easier to digest.
Lentils don’t have the oligosaccharide problem, so don’t need any soaking.
Soaking will reduce the cooking time though, so it can be worth doing for green and brown lentils which take longer to cook than red lentils.
So What Do You Think?
Are lentils worth growing for you?
For me the answer is no. For the space needed to harvest a handful of lentils, I could grow a huge amount of peas. So, I don’t think that growing lentils is worth the time, effort, or garden space.