I was at an interesting food forum today, focused on discussion of promoting connections between growers and consumer, farm to table, etc. I was encouraged by the representation of interests of the folks that came, from SC Dept. of Agriculture to CU Extension to the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association to local producers, the Clemson Area Food Network, and the Upstate Locavores, among others.
I have only a slice of my professional hat in this, but a lot of what I'm interested in as a natural gardener (at least the food side) is involved in good food, preferably local (as from my own garden and kitchen).
And as a cook, eater of whole foods, keen vegetable gardener, and supporter of local food and local farmers, I'm interested in helping promote an interest in our local farmers and their products, and increasing awareness of how we could be growing a lot more food (diversity-wise) locally than we're currently doing.
So I was glad to be a part of this gathering.
A side conversation about growing beans (my artist friend Ellen grew some great-sounding Italian heirlooms that she'd brought back from Italy, she said) and lentils were brought up.
Lentils were hard to grow in our climate, I suggested, remembering looking this up after returning from India a few years ago, and wondering about growing them. Lentils were everywhere in their markets.
Here's a bit more about that, from NC State's ncherbs.org website, courtesy of Dr. Jeanine Davis and her Q & A page, http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/fletcher/programs/herbs/FAQ/index.html
Q RICHLEA LENTILS. I was approached about growing Richlea lentils. What are they and can I grow them in eastern North Carolina? I've never seen lentils growing around here. Do you know why?
A The Richlea is a very desirable lentil. It is a medium green lentil. I used to live in the heart of lentil and dry pea country in the Palouse region of Washington State. I was surrounded by lentils!
Take a look at slides 1, 5, and 6 in this little presentation to see where lentils, peas, and chickpeas are grown in this country and what the terrain looks like: http://www.wishh.org/workshops/intl/kenya/mar09/ppt/stobbs_mar09.pdf.
Lentils are already big business in these states: http://www.ers.usda.gov/briefing/DryBeans/PDFs/DPLOutlook.pdf. In other words, there is no shortage.
I think the main reason we do not have a lentil industry in the Southeast is because it is too hot, humid, and wet. Lentils are adapted to cool, semi-arid areas of the world. High humidity and rainfall reduce yield and seed quality. Where I lived, we got about 12 inches of rain a year, and that came in the winter. And there was no humidity. (Bold is mine, lkw).
Doesn't sound like North Carolina, does it? Drought and high temperatures can also seriously reduce yields. The plants will not tolerate even short periods of flooded or water logged soils.So, I'm sure that someone could grow some lentils here if they really wanted to. They would probably be successful some years, but probably most years they would get low yields and poor quality. Here is some general lentil production information: http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/afcm/lentil.html