Chefs and vendors boost their lentil creativity


Courtesy of Andrew Lang

The Lentil Festival's Grand Parade takes over downtown for a few hours each year.

LATISHA JENSEN, Evergreen mint editor

As lentil production increases considerably in and outside the Palouse region, so has the level of creativity from chefs and lentil-lovers alike. They get the chance to show off at Pullman’s annual two-day Lentil Festival.

Jessie Hunter, director of domestic marketing of the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council, was introduced to lentils through cookbooks in high school when she decided to change her diet and become a dietician.

Hunter is a judge for the Legendary Lentil Cook-off where anyone can submit their recipe. WSU’s hospitality program taste-tests and narrows them down to the top five that will present these dishes at the festival.

“Many people have made lentil soups, but there are all kinds of other ways to use them, from muffins to smoothies to salads,” Hunter said. “That’s the intent of this competition.”

There is also a food vendor competition, added last year, where the winning vendor gets their spot guaranteed at next year’s festival, she said.

“I get to work with chefs and I’ve been exposed to using lentils in creative ways, Hunter said, “and being exposed to different ways of eating lentils and other pulses gives me insight in the cook off.”

The USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council will have a booth with samples and information. They are also sponsoring the Legendary Lentil Cook-off.

Britnee Packwood, director of the National Lentil Festival, attended the festival when she went to WSU, but this is her first year overseeing and putting together the event.

“Before I started working here I at least knew what lentils were and I ate them in recipes or in a restaurant,” Packwood said, “but now, l know like over a 100 different ways you can cook lentils, how they grow, all the different varietals we have in our region.”

Packwood said she enjoys interacting with all the active entities of the festival and getting to see the behind the scenes of how it comes together.

She has learned about lentils from this experience and from people who have shared how they cook and grow lentils in places from as far as India.

“It’s really cool to learn all of these different facts about this little tiny legume,” Packwood said. “It touches a lot of people it’s kind of crazy.”

The Lentil Festival main events start on Aug. 18 from 5 – 11 p.m. and continue Aug. 19 from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.