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Fenugreek ( //; Trigonella foenum-graecum) is an annual plant in the family Fabaceae. The plant is cultivated worldwide as a semi-arid crop and is a common ingredient in dishes from the Indian Subcontinent, where it is known as methi in Hindi/Urdu/मेथीHindi/Nepali), as menthiyam and venthayam (வெந்தயம்) in Tamil, and as menthya (ಮೆಂತ್ಯ) in Kannada.
The English name fenugreek and the French "fenugrec" are derived from foenum-graecum, Latin for "Greek hay", which the plant was called because it was used as cattle fodder. The plant's similarity to wild clover has likely spawned its Swedish name: "bockhornsklöver" as well as its German name: "Bockshornklee"; both words literally mean: "ram's horn clover".
Zohary and Hopf note that it is not yet certain which wild strain of the genus Trigonella gave rise to the domesticated fenugreek but they believe it was brought into cultivation in the Near East. Charred fenugreek seeds have been recovered from Tell Halal, Iraq, (radiocarbon dating to 4000 BC) and Bronze Age levels of Lachish, as well as desiccated seeds from the tomb of Tutankhamen. Cato the Elder lists fenugreek with clover and vetch as crops grown to feed cattle (De Agri Cultura, 27).
Major fenugreek-producing countries are Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Argentina, Egypt, France, Spain, Turkey, Morocco and China. The largest producer of fenugreek in the world is India, where the major fenugreek-producing states are Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Haryana, and Punjab. Rajasthan produces the lion's share of India's production, accounting for over 80% of the nation's total fenugreek output. Kasuri methi or qasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves), popular for its appetizing fragrance, comes from Qasur, Pakistan, and regions irrigated by the Sutlej River, in the Indian and Pakistani states of Punjab. (sources: T. Jilani PhD, Arizona, DASD 2007)
The distinctive cuboid-shaped, yellow-to-amber coloured fenugreek seeds are frequently encountered in the cuisines of the Indian subcontinent. The seeds are used in the preparation of pickles, vegetable dishes, daals, and spice mixes, such as panch phoron and sambar powder. Fenugreek seeds are used both whole and in powdered form and are are often roasted to reduce their bitterness and enhance their flavor.
Dried fenugreek leaves, called kasuri methi (or kasoori methi or qasuri methi) in North India and Pakistan, after the region of Kasur (Qasur) in Punjab, Pakistan province, where fenugreek grows abundantly, are used as an herb in a wide variety of dishes and breads. The dried leaves have a somewhat bitter taste and a characteristically strong but pleasant fragrance.
Fenugreek is also used as a vegetable. Fresh fenugreek leaves are an ingredient in some Indian curries. The sprouted seeds and microgreens are used in salads. When harvested as microgreens, fenugreek is known as Samudra Methi in Maharashtra, especially in and around Mumbai, where it is often grown near the sea in the sandy tracts, hence the name (Samudra, which means "ocean" in Sanskrit).
Fenugreek is used in Eritrean and Ethiopian cuisine. The word for fenugreek in Amharic is abesh (or abish), and the seed is used in Ethiopia as a natural herbal medicine in the treatment of diabetes.
Yemenite Jews following the interpretation of Rabbi Salomon Isaacides, Rashi of Talmūd, believe fenugreek, which they call helba (חילבה) is the Talmudic Rubia (רוביא). They use fenugreek to produce Hilba, a foamy sauce reminiscent of curry, consumed daily but ceremoniously during the meal of the first and/or second night of Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year).
A June 2011 study at the Australian Centre for Integrative Clinical and Molecular Medicine found that men aged 25 to 52 who took a fenugreek extract twice daily for six weeks scored 25% higher on tests gauging libido levels than those who took a placebo.
Fenugreek seeds are a rich source of the polysaccharide galactomannan. They are also a 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.
Fenugreek seeds are used as a medicinal in Traditional Chinese Medicine under the name Hu Lu Ba (Traditional Chinese: 胡蘆巴, Simplified Chinese: 胡芦巴, Pinyin: hú lú bā), where they are considered to warm and tonify kidneys, disperse cold and alleviate pain. Main indications are hernia, pain in the groin. They are used raw or toasted. In India about 2-3g of raw fenugreek seeds are swallowed raw early in the morning with warm water, before brushing the teeth and before drinking tea or coffee, where they are supposed to have a therapeutic and healing effect on joint pains, without any side effects.
In Persian cuisine Fenugreek leaves are used and called شنبلیله (shanbalile). In Arabic traditional medicine, it is known as حلبه (Helba or Hulba). Tea made from the seeds is used in the Near East to treat various kidney, heart, abdominal illnesses and Diabetes. Seeds are used by Bedouin women to strengthen pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Fenugreek is frequently used in the production of flavoring for artificial maple syrups. The taste of toasted fenugreek, like cumin, is additionally based on substituted pyrazines. By itself, fenugreek has a bitter taste.
Fenugreek seed is widely used as a galactagogue (milk producing agent) by nursing mothers to increase inadequate breast milk supply. Studies have shown that fenugreek is a potent stimulator of breast milk production and its use was associated with increases in milk production. It can be found in capsule form in many health food stores.
Several human intervention trials demonstrated that the antidiabetic effects of fenugreek seeds ameliorate most metabolic symptoms associated with type-1 and type-2 diabetes in both humans and relevant animal models by reducing serum glucose and improving glucose tolerance. Fenugreek is currently available commercially in encapsulated forms and is being prescribed as dietary supplements for the control of hypercholesterolemia and diabetes by practitioners of complementary and alternative medicine. Fenugreek contains high dietary fiber, so a few seeds taken with warm water before going to sleep helps avoiding constipation.
In February 2009, the International Frutarom Corporation factory in North Bergen, New Jersey, was found to be the source of a mysterious maple syrup aroma which had been reported as occasionally drifting over New York City since 2005. The odor was found to be an ester associated with fenugreek seed processing. No health risks have been found.
- "Trigonella foenum-graecum information from NPGS/GRIN". www.ars-grin.gov. http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?40421. Retrieved 2008-03-13.
- Daniel Zohary and Maria Hopf, Domestication of plants in the Old World, third edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 122.
- V. A. Parthasarathy, K. Kandinnan and V. Srinivasan, ed. Organic Spices. New India Publishing Agenies. pp. 694.
- "How to Series: Growing Methi (Fenugreek)". A blog called "Fenugreek Love". http://fenugreeklove.wordpress.com/2009/11/16/growing-methi-fenugreek/. Retrieved 2 March 2011.
- Gall, Alevtina; Zerihun Shenkute (November 3, 2009). "Ethiopian Traditional and Herbal Medications and their Interactions with Conventional Drugs". EthnoMed. University of Washington. http://ethnomed.org/clinical/pharmacy/ethiopian-herb-drug-interactions. Retrieved January 27, 2011.
- This is based on the assumption that the Aramaic name רוביא corresponds to it. (Karetot 6a; Horiyot 12a) Rabbenu Nissim at the end of Rosh Hashana, citing the custom of R Hai Gaon. This follows Rashi's translation of רוביא, cited as authoritative by Tur and Shulchan Aruch OC 583:1. But Avudraham interprets רוביא as black-eyed peas.
- Chantry, Caroline J.; Howard, Cynthia R.; Montgomery, Anne; Wight, Nancy (2004) (PDF). Use of galactogogues in initiating or augmenting maternal milk supply. ABM protocols, Protocol#9. The Academy Of Breastfeeding Medicine. Archived from the original on 2007-06-28. http://web.archive.org/web/20070628052457/http://www.bfmed.org/ace-files/protocol/prot9galactogoguesEnglish.pdf. "Supported in part by a grant from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Department of Health and Human Services."
- John Thorpe (2011-06-20). "Get it to the Fenugreek? How Curry Can Seed Your Sex Life". San Francisco Chronicle. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2011/06/20/benzinga1183453.DTL.
- Amanda Chan (2011-06-20). "Fenugreek: A Spice To Spice Things Up In The Bedroom". Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/20/fenugreek-libido_n_880596.html.
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2194788 Effect of fenugreek seeds on blood glucose and serum lipids in type I diabetes
- http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/story?section=news/local&id=6642803 abclocal.go.com
- "E. coli outbreaks linked to Egypt". BBC News. 2011-06-30. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-13973002.
- McKenna, Maryn (2011-07-07). "E. coli: A Risk for 3 More Years From Who Knows Where". Wired. http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/07/e-coli-3-years/.