Lentils are truly a treasure of the old world. Historically, they have been a popular item throughout various civilizations, due their resilience as a plant, low cost, nutritional value, and soft, creamy internal texture. Lentils make a wonderful complement to any dish, and are often mixed with rice and herbs to create flavorful side dishes in a variety of Mediterranean and South American countries. In North America, lentils soup and lentil salad are the most notable of home dishes, however, as studies continue to highlight the innumerable health benefits of pulses, they are being incorporated into a number of new and creative dishes, many of which are being featured on cooking shows and online recipe databases.
From a commodities perspective, lentils differ a touch from its pulse cousins, the beans and peas. Lentils are far more popular internationally than domestically, namely Europe, South America, and India. Although lentils are also purchased and sold domestically in North America, a significant portion of it goes to feed for animals, and another portion to food aid programs (due to it's low price and excellent nutritional profile).
Lentils planting season begins in very early spring, and is typically over by late spring (as weather conditions permit). As a 110-120 day crop, they are harvested in mid to late summer, and will hit the market in late summer/early fall.
Following suit with other dry commodities, lentils are also available year-around. As with any dry special crop, prices and availability are heavily influenced by market conditions, supply & demand, and local economic and political factors.