Dr. Al Slinkard of the University of Saskatchewan is an agricultural researcher specializing in turning dreams into reality.
Because of him, Canada is now the world’s leading exporter of lentils andpeas and one of the top producers of chickpeas. His Laird lentil is to the culinary world what Marquis wheat was and Yukon Gold potatoes are – a true, unmitigated star! Laird is the most recognized lentil in the world and. It is brilliantly easy to cook, inexpensive, high in protein and makes amazing stews and soups and spreads, absorbing flavours easily
When Dr. Slickard joined U of S, “it was very small department trying to do research for 45 million acres of cropland.” The main crop was durum wheat and fewer than a dozen farmers in the province had tried to grow lentils. He looked around the province and determined that there was potential for pulse crops like those he’d seen growing in Washington State, next to where he had grown up.
He released Laird in 1978, and in 1980, another one he named Eston which was also green but decidedly smaller. Both have become standards for the crop – they’ve become the “Kleenex” or “Tim’s” of the aggie community. They are the standards to which other researchers aspire.
The beauty of lentils, as opposed to any other pulse crop, is that they take so little fuel to cook. A pot of split Eston lentils cooks perfectly in less than 15 minutes without the pre-soaking that beans need. For wealthy North America, this may not mean much but for much of the world which suffers from a lack of available fuel, it means a meal.
Now Professor Emeritus at the same university’s Crop Development Centre, Dr. Slinkard effectively laid the foundation for the Canadian pulse industry, releasing 19 new varieties during his tenure there.