(Trigonella foenum graecum – Family Leguminosae)
Fenugreek is of the same family as peas, beans, and clover, as its botanical name suggests, meaning “Greek hay”. Fenugreek seeds are obtained from an annual herb, one of the oldest known used medicinally. Teas were used to increase milk secretion for nursing mothers and have been used to lower blood sugar levels, as well as being effective in expelling nasal mucus. In Yemenite folk medicine, it was used as a treatment for diabetes, where one tablespoon of seeds was soaked overnight in a glass of water and drunk each morning. Although it is thought to have originated in India, fenugreek has grown wild throughout Asia Minor, Greece, Egypt, and elsewhere in the Mediterranean for centuries. Its flowers resemble those of the pea plant, but it produces narrower pods that contain a quantity of tiny, yellowish-brown seeds, which are used whole or in powdered form. They are an important ingredient in many East Indian curries and certain Greek and Egyptian dishes. In Egypt, the seeds are sprouted and eaten with honey or made into a conserve and used as a condiment. Throughout the Near East and in Greece, fenugreek is sometimes mixed into halva, a dish of ground sesame seeds and honey. The fresh leaves make a unique addition to salads, dahls of India, or served with rice. The seeds require slow heating to bring out the full flavour, as overheating makes them bitter. Their aroma resembles that of celery. In southern India, the seeds are the second ingredient after mustard seeds to be fried in oil for a few seconds before other ingredients are added. They are also roasted and powdered, along with red chilis and other spices, and used in a condiment known as muligapuri, eaten with idli and dosas. The young leaves are also a popular vegetable and a staple in Yemen. Fenugreek seeds are rich in vitamins and sugars.