Fenugreek has a strong bitter flavor. It is an important ingredient in many commercial curry powders and other Indian spice mixes. It is widely used in India in dahls, chutneys and pickles, also in fish and vegetable dishes
Fenugreek is associated with Indian cuisine. Its piquant seeds flavor commercially produced curry powders. The sprouted seeds are used in salads. The leaves - known as fenugreek greens or methi leaves - have a bitter taste. These are used in cooking, especially in Pakistan and India, where they are added to breads or chickpea patties.
The name fenugreek comes from the Latin words for Greek hay. Fenugreek was used to feed animals. Indeed, fenugreek is a legume, and the green leaves are cooked in India to a delicious results. The yellow, flat seeds, however, are the part used as condiment.
Avicena, the Arab physician, already prescribed fenugreek to treat diabetes on the 11th century. Fenugreek still retains that application and it is also used to lower blood pressure, and it has other applications in medicine.
How to Identify fenugreek
Fenugreek, the spice, comes as light brown seeds. The seeds grow in a pod on a bean like annual plant. The fenugreek plant can reach up to 2 ft (60 cm) and it has narrow, serrated leaves. The flowers are small, yellow or white, and they appear in the summer. The pods have the shape of a sword. Each pod can have between 10-20 seeds.
Fenugreek is native to India and southern Europe. It is grown commercially in India, Morocco and other African countries.
How to use and store
The dried seeds are available whole or ground. They are slightly bitter and delicately aromatic. The secret lies in roasting the seeds very lightly, just until they begin changing color, before grinding them or adding them to curry mixes. The seeds become too bitter when over-roasted. Use sparingly.
In India and surrounding countries, the seeds are added to curry powders, pickles, chutneys, vegetable dishes and dhals.
In the Middle East and North Africa, the seeds are added to spiced dishes. In some regions in Africa, fenugreek seeds are soaked and cooked like beans.
Fenugreek seeds can be sprouted and added to soups or salads; they are refreshing and healthy. Don't let them grow further than the two-leaf stage.
How to grow
It needs a temperate climate, and fertile, well drained soil. Sow outdoors in late spring and provide protection. Plants should be 9 in (25 cm) apart. Fenugreek plants take about four months to mature. Ensure plants get plenty of sun.
Cooking with fenugreek
Used in small quantities, as they do in India, fenugreek flavors vegetables in a unique way. Try to use fenugreek with vegetables, like cauliflower.
Fenugreek goes especially well with eggplant and potatoes. Try a spiced eggplant recipe.
For the seeds, substitute 1 tsp fenugreek seeds with 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds.
For the leaves, substitute 1 Tbs chopped fresh fenugreek leaves with:
- 1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves
- 1 Tbs chopped fresh Chinese celery leaves
- 1 Tbs chopped frehsh celery leaves
- 1 Tbs chopped watercress leaves
trigonella foenum grecum (leguminosae) - fenugreek - French: fenugrec - German: bockshomklee - Italian: fieno greco - Spanish: alholiva - Dutch: fenegriek - India: meti or methi.