Attention fans of rural food and farming festivals: Pullman, Washington is hosting their 25th annual National Lentil Festival on Friday August 16 and Saturday August 17.
Why lentils? The Palouse—an area of eastern Washington, northern Idaho, and, according to some, northeastern Oregon—is known for its verdant and picturesque rolling hills of wheat and canola. According to the National Lentil Festival's website, the Palouse region also produces the highest quality lentils in the US—in fact, a quarter of the lentils produced in the US come from the Palouse.
Lentils are reputed to be superfoods: not only virtually fat-free but also rich in protein, fiber, and a variety of nutrients. They are one of the best sources of iron and are the quickest and easiest of pulses to prepare. A good range of lentil varieties are grown in the Palouse, including Shasta Yellow, Sunrise Red and Spanish Pardina Brown. Check out PNW Co-Op Specialty Foods website to learn more about lentils grown in the Palouse.
So, what's the Pullman Lentil Fest all about? Part celebration of the loveable legume itself, part regional agritourism, and part rural harvest party, it's a good reason for a weekend road trip—a mere 5.5 hours from Portland. The weekend's events include a lentil pancake breakfast followed by the grand lentil parade and the "Li'l Lentil Royalty Coronation" (must be experienced first-hand to be understood!), the Tour de Lentil Century and Half-Century Bike Ride on Friday, the Tase T. Lentil Fun Run Saturday, and lots of food, live music, lentil-cooking demos, food vendors, local microbrews, wine, and cider and events for kids.
WHAT: 25th Anniversary National Lentil Festival 2013
WHEN: Friday August 16 (5 - 11 pm) and Saturday August 17, 2013 (8 am - 5 pm)
WHERE: Pullman, WA. Driving directions from Portland to Pullman here. Learn about accommodations options on the Pullman Chamber of Commerce website. Details on how to get there, parking and public transit can be found on the National Lentil Fest website. And the Palouse Scenic Byway website also provides information on regional sights.
Can't make it to Pullman for the Lentil Fest? Try your hand at growing your own lentils next spring: they are attractive plants, although they are not wildly productive for the small-space home gardener. Still, it's always fun to try and seeds can be found on-line or sometimes even started from dry commercial lentils. Most economical: just buy them at your local Portland-area Whole Foods Markets, which sell quite a few Palouse-grown lentils. You can also find a wealth of tasty, healthy lentil recipes on the Whole Foods Market website.
Special thanks to filmmakers Sue Arbuthnot and Richard Wilhelm, who notified us about the National Lentil Festival. They are working on a film called Dryland, which explores the story of agriculture in the West through two wheat farming families and their involvement in the Combine Demolition Derby held in Lind, WA each June. Additional thanks to them for mentioning the Dufur Threshing Bee, a wheat-threshing harvest festival held in Dufur, OR in early August each year.