Something occurred to me this morning as I was learning some mishnayos. Perhaps you have an opinion on it.
The mishna at the end of the 7th perek in Masechet Shabbos refers to Adashim and whether their shells are edible. We usually translate Adashim as lentils, but I'm not aware of lentils having a shell. Also, this is a food that is traditionally eaten by mourners because it is round and round objects are symbolic of the circle of life. But lentils aren't really round?
What occurred to me is that perhaps Adashim aren't really lentils, but some other legume. Maybe they are peas. That would make sense since peas really are round, and peas can be eaten with or without their shells. Any thoughts?
The expert on Biblical and Talmudical references to plants, Prof. Judah Feliks (Professor of Botany, Bar Ilan University), dedicates a chapter to Adashim in his book (Hebrew), "Plant World of the Bible" ("Olam ha'Tzomei'ach ha'Mikra'i"). He identifies Adashim as the "lens esculenta." There are different sub-species of lentils, such as the reddish-yellow type, and the brown type. They are roundish in shape, and the reason they are eaten by mourners is because their round shape has no indentation in it at the point where the stem was once attached, as other legumes have.
Adashim can be eaten with the shell or without. He writes that the shell of the Adashim comes off when it is cooked, but makes a reference to Rashi in Shabbos (76b) who says that the outer shell comes off in the storehouse. The species of "Adashim Adumos" (red lentils) has a shell which clings tightly to the lentil and comes off only when cooked or chewed (the shell itself is brown, and when removed the lentil has a reddish appearance). The shell of "Adashim Chomos" (brown lentils) comes off easily by hand.
He discusses other types of lentils, such as the very small "Egyptian lentil," which grows to be no more than 4 millimeters.
He adds that the lentil that is on the market today is a "mixed-breed" and is not the pure lens esculenta, since it is very difficult to cultivate the pure lentil for the market due to the difficulty in harvesting it with a combine machine (it must be hand picked). The most popular type of lentil sold today, he writes, is the red lentil, whose seeds are small. It is usually sold cut in half, with the shell already peeled off.
I hope this was helpful for you.