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New Year’s Eve is approaching and you know you have to eat a lot of lentils if you hope for prosperity in 2013, a tradition born most likely because of their round, coin-like form.

Rich in proteins, vitamins and minerals, lentils have been part of the human diet since the Neolithic times: 10,000 years ago they were already a staple for ancient Near-Eastern and European cultures. 

They are mentioned in the Bible, found in Ancient Egypt and Greece; Roman gourmet Marcus Gavius Apicius in De Re Coquinaria and Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella, the most important writer on agriculture of the Roman Empire, inform us of lentils’ nutrient values and versatility in the kitchen. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, used to prescribe them to patients suffering from liver disorders.

Sadly, you have never tasted good Italian lentils, if you haven’t tried Lentils from Monti Sibillini, near Perugia, Umbria region; Black Lentils from Leonforte, near Enna, Sicily region; Lentils from Altamura, near Bari, Puglia region; or Lentils from Sorano, near Grosseto, Tuscany region. If you can’t find them in your local Italian store or order them on the web, it is worth a trip to Italy just to taste these luscious legumes in their different regional preparations.

On New Year’s Eve, if you are a vegetarian, you can enjoy them as a main dish. Otherwise, to keep with tradition, cook a a cotechino, a large spiced sausage, or a zampone, stuffed pig's trotter (both stuffed with ground pork, pork rinds, and spices), on the side, slice it, and add it to the lentils. It may sound disgusting but, if you eat pork, it is truly delicious.


Plate from

Altamura lentils from