A recent addition to Montana crop rotations, lentil plants are much smaller than pea plants (usually only 16 in.) and bushy, with feather- or fern-like leaves. The plants tend toward a yellowish-green. Very small white, lilac, or pale blue flowers cover the plant. Seed pods usually contain only 2 lentil seeds, the lowest pods mature and turn brown first, so that the topmost pods may still be slightly green when harvested. Lentils are frost- and drought resistant, they do not require deep soil, prefer to be planted in cold weather, and mature quickly once the weather warms up, making them ideally suited for much of Montana. They generally do not require irrigation.
Lentils are prepared in a wide variety of ways for human consumption, including soups, stews, salads, and curries. Most lentils in the United States are exported, however, a few processing plants exist in Montana, and some grocery stores across the state sell Montana-grown lentils. Because of their drought-tolerance and contribution to soil health, lentil production in Montana is increasing.