What are Puy Lentils?
We source our Puy lentils from the region of Le Puy-en-Velay in the South of France. The area is formed from ancient volcanic lava domes, which make the land incredibly fertile. This, combined with the high, even altitude where the valley sits, creates a uniquely dry and warm microclimate – the perfect conditions in which to grow the delicate Puy lentil. This variety of lentil was actually brought over by the Romans some 2000 years ago, which is why the lentils thrive in an area with conditions similar to the Mediterranean climate in which they started.
Because of these unique growing conditions, the lentil has its own protected designation of origin status – which means that, to use the name Puy Lentils, the product must be grown, harvested and packed in the region of Puy. To get this special EU status, the farmers also have to make sure they stick to some strict rules including not using any pesticides and no irrigation (they can’t grow Puy lentils on the same plot for two years in a row). This real exposure to the elements makes Puy lentils an incredible fragile crop to harvest, and takes a very skilled farmer to grow.
The Puy Cooperative
The Puy region stretches over a 50k parameter home to 88 small villages, within which there are approximately 600 farmers. The farmers have to rotate their crops on small pieces of land – around 100 metre squared – generally over a 7 year period, to ensure the land is well looked after and that each crop benefits from the previous crop (each crop pumps the ground with nitrogen, which acts as a natural fertiliser). At Merchant Gourmet, we source our Puy Lentils from a cooperative of farmers within the region. They get paid upfront by the lentil suppliers in the region and are offered subsidised insurance in order to help support their business, particularly during bad harvests, as Puy crops are so fragile and dependant on the climate.
A bit about texture
What makes Puy lentils so special is their delicate thin membrane, caused by the special growing conditions which prevent them from maturing fully. This means the lentils are incredibly delicate, yet retain a firm bite, don’t lose their texture and cook faster than other lentils.