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Fenugreek Seeds

What are Fenugreek Seeds?
The seeds of a leguminous plant eaten as a vegetable. The seeds are used as a condiment or seasoning. The flavor of these seeds are mildly bitter and at the same time are slightly sweet. The seeds are rhombic in shape and usually they are yellow to amber in color. The Arabic word hulb (Helba in Egypt) for the seed resembles its Mandarin Chinese counterpart hu lu ba.

Fenugreek is regarded as a herb native to the semi-arid regions of southeastern Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia, but is widely cultivated in other parts of the world. The word 'fenugreek' is derived from the two Latin words 'foenum-graecum' meaning Greek hay. It is known as Methi or Mithi in Hindi.


Availability of Fenugreek Seeds
Fenugreek Seeds are easily procurable in the grocery store as whole and ground. Fenugreek seeds should be stored in a cool, dark place for no more than 6 months.

Historical Evidence
Though the research as to from which wild strain of the genus Trigonella led to the domestication fenugreek has been quite inconclusive, yet based on the available evidence it can be speculated to have originated somewhere in the far East. The following finding have documented the above conclusion:-

  • Charred fenugreek seeds have been recovered from Tell Halal, Iraq, (radiocarbon dating to 4000 BC)
  • Charred fenugreek seeds have also been recovered from Bronze Age levels of Lachish
  • Dehydrated or powdered variety of fenugreek seeds have been recovered from the tomb of Tutankhamen
  • Cato the Elder, an eminent Roman statesman enlisted fenugreek with clover and vetch as crops grown to feed cattle.

Wide Usage
In the Indian subcontinent fenugreek seeds are very commonly used in various culinary preparations as well as crucial ingredient of pickles, curry powders, and pastes. Fenugreek seeds are frequently used in the following manner:-

  • Fenugreek seeds are mixed with yogurt in India
  • Fenugreek seeds are used as a conditioner for hair in India
  • Fenugreek seeds are one of the three ingredients of idli and dosa in India
  • Fenugreek seeds are used in the making of khakhra, a type of bread in India
  • Fenugreek is frequently used in the production of flavoring for artificial syrups
  • The taste of toasted fenugreek is additionally based on substituted pyrazines, as is cumin
  • Fenugreek seeds are used in injera/taita, a type of bread unique to Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine
  • Fenugreek seeds are used as a natural herbal medicine in the treatment of diabetes in Ethiopia
  • Fenugreek seeds are sometimes used as an ingredient in the production of clarified butter in Ethiopia which is similar to Indian ghee
  • Fenugreek seeds are used in the making of çemen to a hot paste used in pastirma in Turkey and Egypt
  • Fenugreek seeds are used as a condiment and an ingredient added to the national dish called saltah in Yemen
  • Fenugreek seeds are used in preparing tea by being boiled then sweetened in Egypt. This is a popular winter drink served in coffee shops
  • Fenugreek seeds are sprinkled on a semolina cake.

Nutritional and Medicinal Properties
The chemical components of fenugreek seed include iron, vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin C, phosphates, flavonoids, saponins, trigonelline, and other alkaloids. The seed is also high in fiber and protein.

Fenugreek seeds are high on polysaccharide galactomannan. They are also a rich source of saponins such as diosgenin, yamogenin, gitogenin, tigogenin, and neotigogens. Other bioactive constituents of fenugreek include mucilage, volatile oils, and alkaloids such as choline and trigonelline. It is exztensively recommended as a galactagogue (milk producing agent) for nursing mothers to increase

inadequate breast milk supply. Supplements of fenugreek seeds are prescribed to lower serum cholesterol, triglyceride, and low-density lipoprotein in human patients.

Egyptian, ayurvedic Indian, Greek, and Roman medical practitioners have since the earliest times have used it as an aphrodisiac and as a remedy for colds and sore throats, indigestion, and other complaints. Lydia Pinkham included fenugreek in her famous 19th century "Vegetable Compound" nostrum for menstrual aches.

In present times fenugreek seeds are used referred to in case of menopausal complaints, heart disease, weight control and diabetes.