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An Introduction
Fenugreek, commonly known as methi in Hindi, is a a plant in the family Fabaceae. Its is one of the plants used both as an herb (the leaves) and as a spice (the seed). A native to India and southern Europe, this plant is cultivated worldwide as a semi-arid crop. The dried leaves (called kasuri methi) have a bitter taste and a strong characteristic smell and are used as a flavouring agent in preparing many dishes, especially in curry. For centuries it has grown wild in India, the Mediterranean and North Africa.

Since innumerable, Fenugreek has been widely used as a food and food additive as well as for its medicinal properties. Fresh tender pods, leaves and shoots are eaten as curried vegetable, while seeds are used for garnishing and flavouring variety of food. Ancient Egyptians used Fenugreek to combat fever. In the classical period, it was grown as a cattle fodder and as a soil renovator. The name derives from the Latin ‘Greek hay” illustrating its classical use as fodder. India continues to be the major source and main consumer for its culinary and medicinal uses.
Other Names
It is known as Methi in Nepali and various Indian regional languages like Hindi, Urdu, Bangla,Gujarati and Marathi. Other names of Fenugreek in various languages are:
  • French: fenugrec Sénegré, trigonelle
  • German: Bockshornklee, Griechisches Heu
  • Italian: fieno greco
  • Spanish: alholva, fenogreco
  • Tamil: venthium
  • Telugu: menthulu
  • Malayalam: ulluva
  • Kannada: menthyada soppu
  • Malay: alba
  • Sinhalese: uluhaal
  • Arabic: hilbeh.

Fenugreek Seeds
Used as a spice, the small stony seeds from the pod of Fenugreek are a rich source of the polysaccharide galactomannan. They are aromatic, bitter, carminative, galactogouge, antibacterial and may be eaten raw or cooked. The Fenugreek plant produce 10-15 cm long pods which contains 10-20 small hard yellowish brown seeds, which are smooth and oblong, about 3mm long, giving them a hooked appearance. They are available whole and dried , or as a dull yellow powder, ground from the roasted seeds.

Bulk of the seed is dietary fiber (50%) and protein (30%) both of which have no taste or flavor. Bitterness is mainly due to the oil, steroidal saponins and alkaloids.

Fenugreek seed generally contains:
  • Moisture:6.3 %
  • Protein:9.5 %
  • Fat:10.0 %
  • Fiber:18.5%
  • Carbohydrates:42.3 %
  • Total ash:13.4 %
  • Calcium:1.3 %
  • Phosphorus:0.48 %
  • Iron:0.011 %
  • Sodium:0.09 %
  • Potassium:1.7 % Vitamin B1:0.41 mg/100 g
  • Vitamin B2:0.36 mg/100 g
  • Niacin:6.0 mg/100 g
  • Vitamin C:12.0 mg/100g
  • Vitamin A:1040 I.U./100 g
  • Calorific value:370 calories/100g
  • Gums:23.06 %
  • Mucilage:28.00 %.


Fenugreek Leaves
Fresh fenugreek leaves and tender stems are edible and prepared like spinach. Dried leaves, either whole or ground, are called kasuri methi, and they are often used as a flavouring agent in preparing many recipes. They are a rich source of calcium, iron, vitamin A and vitamin C (ascorbic acid). For 100 g of leaves, there is- 86% moisture, 4.4% protein, 1% fat, 1% fiber, 395 mg Calcium, 2.3 mg carotene (mainly beta, 329 IU Vit A), 40 mg thiamine, 310 mg riboflavin, 800 mcg nicotinic acid, and 52 mg Vit C; with traces of Vit K, and high amounts of choline (13.5 mg/g).

Culinary Uses
For centuries, Fenugreek has been used both as a food or food additive as well as in medicines. The leaves, stem and sprouts of the Fenugreek plant are eaten green as salad. In the Indian subcontinent, it is a common ingredient of innumerable recipes and is used as a herb as well as a spice. Fresh tender pods, leaves and shoots are eaten as curried vegetable. It is a one of the ingredients of panch phoron, the Indian five-spice mixture; idli & dosa paste; and khakhra, a type of bread.

For thousands of years, fenugreek has been used as a common ingredient of curry, figuring in many mixtures, especially vindaloo and the hot curries of Sri Lanka. It is a favorite in Northern African and Middle Eastern dishes, and is one of a few

spices which is used in powdered form. It is favourite to many chutneys and pickles. Its leaves, both fresh and dried, are used in meat curries, lentils and vegetable dishes. Fenugreek seeds are also used in candy, baked goods, ice cream, chewing gum and soft drinks.

Attributed Medicinal Properties
For centuries, fenugreek, the rich source of vitamins and minerals, is an important part of herbal medicine traditions of the Middle East, India, Egypt, and China. Being a rich source of iron, silicon, sodium and thiamine, it provides relief in many health complexions.

Externally fenugreek is used for boils, eczema ,skin inflammations, ulcers, and cellulite . Internally fenugreek is used to treat numerous problems such as gastric inflammation, diabetes in adults, poor digestion, digestive disorders and tuberculosis. The seeds of fenugreek can be used to make tea which is known to increase milk secretion in nursing mothers.

Other Uses

  • Its dried leaves can be as a natural insect repellent in grain storage
  • In some parts of North Africa, Fenugreek seeds in combination with sugar and olive oil were eaten by women to gain weight
  • They are still used as veterinary medicines in many western countries.
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