Duckweed and lentils

I was out photographing yesterday and came across some duckweed growing on the surface of a puddle. For those unfamiliar with this plant, the picture below will help; as for scale, each tiny frond is only a few millimeters in length. There are various species of duckweed in the world, some belonging to the genus Lemna, which botanists have traditionally included in the family Lemnáceas/Lemnaceae. I though lemna would be a Latin word, and that Spanish would therefore have something similar, but it seems lemna was an ancient Greek term for a type of water plant that English has called ‘star-grass.’

So what does Spanish say for ‘duckweed’? The answer is either of the two similar phrases lenteja acuática and lenteja de agua. Translate the second of those into English and we have water lentil, a good description of what this diminutive aquatic plant looks like. If lentils are nutritious, so is duckweed, with the English name implying that ducks eat it. Wikipedia even takes that higher up the food chain: “Duckweed is an important high-protein food source for waterfowl and also is eaten by humans in some parts of Southeast Asia. As it contains more protein than soybeans, it is sometimes cited as a significant potential food source.” I wonder what a dish made with lentejas and lentejas de agua might taste like. If any intrepid reader would like to find out and report back, we’d be much obliged.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. lexiekahn
    Jul 28, 2011 @ 21:36:29

    I find the relationship between “lentil” and “lens” interesting. I wrote about it here: http://lexiekahn.wordpress.com/?s=lentil
    I forgot that I also included a reference to Texas pronunciation. Correct me if I’m overgeneralizing about that, which is likely.

    Reply

  2. Steve Schwartzman
    Jul 29, 2011 @ 05:45:33

    So now we both leave a leguminous legacy.

    I responded to your last point at your site: http://lexiekahn.wordpress.com/?s=lentil

    Reply

  3. Watching Seasons
    Jul 31, 2011 @ 16:55:35

    OK, ‘leguminous legacy’ brought a smile to my face.

    Reply

  4. Steve Schwartzman
    Jul 31, 2011 @ 17:55:11

    No one can say that the phrase leguminous legacy doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

    Reply

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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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