Tour a lentil farm + Bacon, Lentil & Tomato (BLT) Salad

The wide variety of food produced in this vast country has enchanted me ever since I was little. As a wee one alongside my older brother, I slung a fishing line over the side of a canoe for lake trout, and on my own I foraged for wild strawberries and morels to bring back to my mother’s kitchen.

From watching wild salmon spawn in on the West Coast to digging for clams on the far East, my culinary education continues to expand, year after year. This past week, I had the opportunity to travel to the middle of our country: a family-owned lentil farm in the heart of Saskatchewan.

Expansive fields dotted with farms were completely new territory for me. Although I knew that Canada was the world’s largest lentil producer and that Saskatchewan produced 95% of those beauties such as Black Beluga and French Green, I really had no clue how lentils were grown. It was a fantastic learning experience, under the broad blue skies of the great prairies.

Sunset dinner in Regina | Simple Bites

The lovely people behind Canadian Lentils organized this farm-to-table tour, and brought together a lively group of food professionals from top blogs and magazines – including Chef Michael Smith. Around the table where we overlooked Wascana Lake, we learned some interesting facts on the health benefits of lentils, all while dining on three courses featuring the versatile pulse. Yes, even dessert: addicting chewy lentil cookies and rhubarb ice cream.

Lentil Cookies (tour a lentil farm) | Simple Bites

Much to my delight, our tour officially began on soil, the dry arid dirt of southern Saskatchewan so well suited to growing pulse crops (lentils, peas, chickpeas, and beans). True to form, the area was suffering from drought; not a drop of rain in 60 days.

The broad, sweeping field of light green lentils plants seemed no worse for wear. In fact, neither did the neighbouring pale blue flax fields or the vibrant yellow canola. Everything seemed as it should be.

David Stobbe / Stobbephoto.ca

David Stobbe / Stobbephoto.ca

When I closely examined the lentil plants, I was reminded of my own backyard peas, ripening in a pod. The lentils grow in a similar way, with 1-3 lentils in a teeny-tiny pod on a delicate, wispy plant. Delicate, yes, but strong enough to withstand these conditions and collectively produce nearly two million tons of lentils each year.

Already, I liked lentil plants: dainty and tough.

David Stobbe / Stobbephoto.ca

David Stobbe / Stobbephoto.ca

Above is Jamie Simpson, a fourth generation farmer in Moose Jaw. Since the late 70’s his family has been growing lentils with the utterly impressive slogan “Nourish the World”. Considering how far his lentils have traveled and with the nutritional information we have on lentils, it’s a fitting motto.

David Stobbe / Stobbephoto.ca

David Stobbe / Stobbephoto.ca

Chef Michael is no stranger to lentils. Around here and across Canada he’s known as the Lentil Hunter. Watch some of his shows as he searches the globe for the world’s best lentil recipes and just try not to get sucked into each episode!

Simpson Seeds lentil farm tour | Simple bBites

From the field, we headed to the Simpson processing farm. Admittedly, the factory part of the tour was a little lost on this creative. My hubby, Danny the engineer, should have been on this tour! We saw how lentils (and other crops like chickpeas and durum wheat) were received, sorted, processed and packaged.

Tour a Canadian lentil farm | Simple Bites

I remember that these were the combines that harvested the lentils. They made me feel exceedingly tiny. We walked by an estimated 10 million dollars of machinery. I’ve always had the utmost respect for farmers, but this farm tour expanded that regard even more.

Aimee and Chef Michael Smith

What better way to pass a July day than with the Lentil Hunter himself, surrounded by fields of lentils?

Cafe Common | Moose Jaw

David Stobbe / Stobbephoto.ca

Under all that open sky, and with nothing but farms for miles around, it was hard to believe we could find an air conditioned place serving decent cold brew coffee. But tucked away in quaint Moose Jaw is Common Café + Bakery with its house-baked olive oil rye bread and spicy coconut curry lentil soup and they kept the group of us very happy. How great is a simple lentil soup? Really great.

Lentil cooking class with Chef Michael Smith

David Stobbe / Stobbephoto.ca

The afternoon that followed was a memorable one, in the comfortable quarters of Regina cooking school Schoolhaus. There, I had a lot of fun rubbing shoulders in the kitchen with top food editors of Chatelaine, Style at Home and Canadian Living, as well as fellow food bloggers, Ethan, Amy, Dan and Renée, and of course, Michael Smith.

David Stobbe / Stobbephoto.ca

David Stobbe / Stobbephoto.ca

Even though I cook lentils frequently, I still learned a ton about them during this little power session. For example, Chef Michael freezes his cooked lentils (for up to one year) and pulls them out for ultra-quick meals. I’ve never frozen lentils (other than soup) but now my mind is open to the possibility of batch cooking these Beet Braised Lentils with Thyme and Apples. And I think this fall I’ll need to stock my freezer with Vegan Lentil Sloppy Joes.

David Stobbe / Stobbephoto.ca

David Stobbe / Stobbephoto.ca

Together we had a bit of a cook-off/brainstorming session, with everyone creating a twist on a lentil salad. I tasted every single dish and was super impressed to see the wide variety of tastes even though we were all working with the same base ingredient.

Lentil hall of fame

Ethan and I teamed up to create a BLT salad, with ‘Lentils’ as the obvious ‘L’ in this acronym. We added loads of chopped parsley, a pungent mustard dressing and crispy fried chickpeas. Oh, and a fried egg finished it all of, because, well, bacon and eggs. It’s a recipe definitely worthy of sharing here with you.

Say, if you make this salad (or any lentil dish) in your kitchen, take a moment to think about those tough and tender Canadian lentil plants under the vast prairie sky and the farmer in rural Saskatchewan that grew them for your table.

Bacon, Lentil & Tomato Salad | Simple Bites #recipe

David Stobbe / Stobbephoto.ca

BLT (Bacon, Lentil & Tomato) Salad
4.7 from 3 reviews
Print
Recipe type: Salad
Author:
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves/Yield: 2 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 cups cooked beluga or French green lentils
  • 3 strips bacon, cooked and crumbles
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup roasted chickpeas
  • 2 fried eggs (optional)
Instructions
  1. Combine dijon, lemon juice, olive oil and seasonings in a small mason jar. Cover and shake until combined.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine lentils, bacon, cherry tomatoes and chopped parsley. Pour over the vinaigrette and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
  3. Heap the salad on a serving platter and garnish with roasted chickpeas.
  4. Finish with two fried egg, if desired.

Aimee in Saskatchewan canola field | Simple Bites

What is your favourite way to eat lentils?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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Comments

  1. Hey girl- I have ate lentils before. But I wasn’t that familiar with them and what you can do with them until now! These recipes and ideas sound very interesting! and by the way I ordered your book yesterday and can’t wait to get it soon!!( but right now Amazon is out of the books)

  2. I love this! So fun to see the farm behind the food. And I have everything I need to make this salad for dinner tonight – can’t wait. xx

  3. Fantastic blog today! What a wonderful privileged experience you’ve had. Thanks for sharing the joy!

  4. I am a little embarassed to say, I had never even *heard* of lentils until I married into a German-Canadian family. I’m from the Midwest in the states, so we have soybeans, corn, and cattle: burgers, steak and corn on the cob are standard fare. Lentil soup is one of my husband’s favorite winter meals, so when I started making it for him I realized how lentils could be in nearly anything for a healthier version. We always have some on hand. I found this post really interesting…and wow! Michael Smith is TALL!
    Sarah M

    • He is tall, Sarah! 😉

      I enjoyed your story. Good for you for adapting! I bet lentil soup is a real comfort food for your husband.

  5. You make lentils sound so interesting and delicious. I keep them on hand in my pantry, but admittedly, I haven’t used them in many diverse ways before. Mainly just soups and whatnot. You have really got me thinking about all the other ways to use them!

    Also that salad sounds great. I make a similar salad with pasta but lentils would definitely be a healthier substitution.

    • Lisa, they ARE interesting and delicious! My kids hardly ever scrape their bowls so clean as they do with a simple French lentil soup. It’s a winter staple here.

      It’s truly amazing how diverse they are!

  6. Knittinchick says:

    My mom has been making a lentil sheet cake that she clipped from the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix a few years ago… I love it because everyone gobbles it up and it’s not a stereotypical lentil recipe!

    And lentil dal-love the curry flavours!

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