Small annual legume (Lens esculenta) and its lens-shaped, protein-rich, edible seed. One of the most ancient of cultivated foods, it is a good source of vitamin B, iron, and phosphorus. Of unknown origin, the lentil is widely cultivated throughout Europe, Asia, and North Africa; though little grown in the Western Hemisphere, its inclusion in the U.S. diet is increasing. Growing 6–18 in. (15–45 cm) high, the plant has compound leaves and pale blue flowers. Animals are fed the stalks and leaves as fodder.