A highlight of my summer was being invited to attend a sponsored Farm to Table tour with Lentils.org in the picturesque prairie landscape of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. On this two day adventure packed with learning and fun, I had the opportunity to experience the full realm of how lentils are grown and processed, learned more about the nutrition benefits, participated in a chef-led cooking class, and of course enjoyed many lentil delicacies! Dietitian Ellie Krieger, a New York Times bestselling and award winning author helped host the tour, and I enjoyed the company of 17 other incredible dietitian colleagues from across North America.

Before I dive into the details of my lentil tour, here are some interesting lentil facts:

  • Lentils are pulses! Pulses include the seed pod of legume plants. This includes dried beans, dried peas, and chickpeas.
  • Most of the world’s lentils are grown right in Saskatchewan! Split red and whole green lentils are the most commonly consumed variety in Canada.
  • Lentils are lush green plants and only grow to about 24 inches high.
  • They’re actually an ancient crop. Archaeological data demonstrates that they have been consumed as far back as 10,000 years ago.

Cooking with Lentils:

  • They cook quickly! Whole lentils only take only 15 minutes to cook, and split lentils as little as 5 minutes.
  • Simply rinse, simmer, and serve them. So easy!
  • Because of their mild flavour they can take on the taste of pretty much dish they are added to. They make a perfect addition to:
    • soups, pasta sauces, stews, salads, tacos, smoothies, baking, and desserts.

 As a dietitian, I love the fantastic nutrition profile of lentils! They are high in plant-based protein, contain good carbs, lots of dietary fibre and a host of other key nutrients.

  • For 100 g of cooked lentils (approximately 1/2 cup) they contain:
  • 9 g protein
    • Protein is a key building block for the body to help build muscle and is important for tissue healing and repair.
  • 7.9 g fibre
    • Fibre helps to stabilize blood sugars, improves digestive health, and they help to keep you feel full!
  • 181 mcg folate
    • Folate is important for normal cell division and is an especially important nutrient for expectant moms.
  • 3.33 mg iron
    • Iron carries oxygen to all body cells and plays a key role in energy production.
  • 369 mg potassium
    • Potassium helps regulate blood pressure and maintain a regular heart rate. It is important for heart health and muscle contraction.
  • 36 mg magnesium
    • Magnesium is a mineral that the body requires but does not readily produce. It is a nutrient we do not typically get enough of that helps to regulate muscle and nerve function.
  • 1.27 mg zinc
    • Zinc is important for healthy immune function, wound healing, and blood clotting.

 Lentils really fit the bill for what consumers are currently looking for. Canada’s Food Guide is currently under review and preliminary reports show that consumers are interested in understanding more about the benefits of consuming plant-based protein, fibre, and good carbohydrates.

Not only are pulses affordable nutrition, when they are included in diets they have been shown to help:

  • reduce risk of heart disease
  • reduce risk of certain cancers
  • prevent and help manage diabetes
  • reduce cholesterol
  • prevent iron-deficiency anemia
  • aid with satiety helping with maintaining healthy weight

Lentils are Environmentally Sustainable

  • Pulses are a water efficient source of protein, they use 1/2 to 1/10 the water of other sources of protein. It takes 41 gallons of water to produce one pound of pulses, while meat and poultry takes anywhere from 469 to 1,857 gallons of water to produce one pound of edible food.
  • Lentils are considered a low carbon footprint food, because they use soil bacteria to draw nitrogen from the air. This natural process replaces the need to add nitrogen fertilizers to the soil that lentil crops are grown in.
  • Many pulse crops are adapted to dry environments, making them well suited for areas that are prone to drought.

A few of my favourite tour highlights:

The tour began with a lentil-inspired dinner at the locally owned and operated The Hollows restaurant. Every dish on our menu was prepared with lentils! It was amazing to see and taste all of the creative ways Chefs Christie Peters and Kyle Michael turned lentils into gourmet dishes. The highlight of my dinner was the cod and potato fritto misto with tzatziki, squid ink lentils, and shaved radish. While we dined, Chris Marinangeli Director of Nutrition, Science, and Regulatory Affairs at Pulse Canada shared a fact filled overview of the science and health benefits of lentils.


The next morning began bright and early with a trip to the spectacular lentil fields.  We were welcomed to Aidra Farms by Corey Loessin, his wife Joan Heath, and their children. Corey explained the benefits of growing and rotating variety of crops including lentils, peas, faba beans, and canola to maintain the health of the soil. Soil conservation is among the strongest motivators for much of the way they run their operation. One of the most important lessons I learned from Corey and Joan was the importance of protecting the 6 inches of loam topsoil from erosion through maintaining crop stubble and crop rotation.


It was a spectacular site to see a vast field of red lentils at their peak of growth. Not only are they a beautiful little plant, the immature lentils also taste great – surprisingly sweet like a green pea. We were treated to a divine picnic lunch right on the farm prepared by Canada’s first Top Chef Dale MacKay and his partner Chef Carl Recolaso. They incorporated all things lentil into the menu and much more. It’s hard to pick my favourite dish, there were so many, but a lentil and beet salad served with crostini stands out in my memory!

Next was a tour at ILTA Grain where lentils are processed, cleaned, and bagged for export to be shipped worldwide. ILTA exports to more than 130 countries and is a friend to North American farmers. All the products they process are grown in North America.  They implement stringent quality control throughout the whole process from obtaining the product from farms to shipping to customers – this allows them to literally feed the world the highest quality food!


My adventure continued with a visit to The Local Kitchen where we had learned first-hand from Chef Dale MacKay and Chef Carl Recolaso how to prepare lentils in a number of different ways.  My group prepared lentil and bulgar pilaf with yogurt and fried onions!
The whole tour was capped off with a delicious farewell dinner at the Little Grouse on the Prairie restaurant. We were treated to a family style dinner of an assortment of small plates from salads to meats to pastas. Clearly, I love lentils! I did before this magnificent Farm to Table experience, but now I have an even greater respect for this tiny but nutritionally powerful pulse! I’ve expanded my repertoire of using both whole and split lentils that are grown right in Saskatchewan. I would like to share some of my favourite lentil recipes, and I bet they will soon become your favourites too:

Coconut and Banana Lentil Bites
Garden Lentil Salad with Maple Citrus Vinaigrette
Indian Spiced Lentils