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Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is a plant in the family Fabaceae. Fenugreek is used both as an herb (the leaves) and as a spice (the seed). It is cultivated worldwide as a semi-arid crop. It is frequently used in curry.
The name "fenugreek" or foenum-graecum is from Latin for "Greek hay". The Gujarati name is Methi (मेथी) or Methya (मेथ्या). The Kannada name is "menthya" (ಮೆಂತ್ಯ). The Tamil name for it is "Vendayam" (வெந்தயம்). The Telugu name for it is "Menti" (మెంతి). The Malayalam name is "Uluva" (ഉലുവ).In Sinhala it is called Uluhaal (උළුහාල්). (In Marathi, Oriya, Bangla, Punjabi, Urdu and Hindi it is called Methi (मेथी) (Bangla: মেথী ),(Urdu: میتھی). In Persian it is Shanbalîleh (شنبليله), and in Arabic its name is Hilbeh (حلبة). The Malay language borrows the term halba from Arabic. The plant's similarity to wild clover has likely spawned its Swedish name, "bockhornsklöver" as well as in German - "Bockshornklee" , literally meaning '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 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 India, Pakistan, Argentina, Egypt, France, Spain, Turkey, Morocco and China. India is the largest producer of fenugreek in the world where Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Haryana and Punjab are the major fenugreek producing states. Rajasthan produces the lion's share of India's production by accounting for over 80% of the nation's total fenugreek output. Qasoori Methi, more 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 cuboid yellow to amber coloured fenugreek seeds, commonly called maithray, are frequently used in the preparation of pickles, curry powders, and pastes, and the spice is often encountered in the cuisine of the Indian subcontinent. The seeds are used as seasoning for many dishes or in powdered form to mix with rice, since the health benefits of added seeds (or leaves) to the diet, in moderate quantities, is considerable. The young leaves and sprouts of fenugreek are eaten as greens, and the fresh or dried leaves are used to flavour other dishes. The dried leaves (called kasturi methi) have a bitter taste and a characteristically strong smell.
Fenugreek green is a very popular curry cooked in the major sub-continental region of India and Pakistan, usually together with potatoes and/or spinach, and eaten with Roti or Naan (flatbread) and/or rice. It is usually eaten boiled in China, and central and Western Asia.
Fenugreek is used in Eritrean and Ethiopian cuisine. The word for fenugreek in Amharic is abesh, and the seed is reportedly also often used in Ethiopia as a natural herbal medicine in the treatment of diabetes. It is also sometimes used as an ingredient in the production of clarified butter (Amharic: qibé, Ethiopian and Eritrean Tigrinya: tesme), which is similar to Indian ghee. In Turkey, fenugreek gives its name, çemen, to a hot paste used in pastırma. The same paste is used in Egypt for the same purpose. The Arabic word hulba حلبة (Helba in Egypt) for the seed resembles its Mandarin Chinese counterpart hu lu ba. In Yemen it is the main condiment and an ingredient added to the national dish called saltah. Fenugreek, or shanbalîleh شنبليله in Persian, is also one of four herbs used for the Iranian recipe Ghormeh Sabzi.
In Egypt, fenugreek seeds are prepared as tea, by being boiled then sweetened. This is a popular winter drink served in coffee shops. In other parts of the Middle East fenugreek is used in a variety of sweet confections. A cake dessert known as Helba in the Islamic world is a tasty treat during Islamic holidays. This is a semolina cake covered in sugar or maple-like syrup, and sprinkled with fenugreek seeds on top.
Yemeni Jewry often prepare a foamy substance from fenugreek seeds that they add to soups. Additionally, it is a key ingredient besides salt found in their unleavened bread, used for the Festival of Passover. Some Jews customarily eat fenugreek during the meal of the first and/or second night of Rosh Hashana (The New Year).
In Bulgaria, fenugreek seeds are used as one of the ingredients in a traditional spice mixture called sharena sol (шарена сол).
Fenugreek seeds are thought to be a galactagogue that is often used to increase milk supply in lactating women. Because the maple syrup-like flavor is strong and not always liked, the seeds are ground to a powder and administered in capsules. Many lactating women who take fenugreek in the quantities required to increase their milk supply notice that their skin exudes a distinct "maple syrup" odor.
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 herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine under the name Hu Lu Ba. In TCM it warms and tonifies kidneys, disperses cold and alleviates pain. Main indications are called hernia, pain in the groin. It's used raw or toasted.
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.
In the Malay language fenugreek is known as halba (from the Arabic). The seeds are often included in the preparation of a traditional dessert called butir nangka, which is very popular around Ramadan.
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 breastmilk production and its use was associated with increases in milk production of as much as 900%. It can be found in capsule form in many health food stores.
Supplements of fenugreek seeds were shown to lower serum cholesterol, triglyceride, and low-density lipoprotein in human patients and experimental models of hypercholesterolemia and hypertriglyceridemia , although the benefits of lowering serum cholesterol in and of itself is controversial (see statins). 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.
In February 2009, the International Frutarom Corporation factory in North Bergen, New Jersey, United States, was discovered to be the source of a maple syrup-like smell that had wafted throughout New York City intermittently 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.
- ^ Statistics
- ^ 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) ([dead link] – Scholar search), Use of galactogogues in initiating or augmenting maternal milk supply, The Academy Of Breastfeeding Medicine, http://www.bfmed.org/ace-files/protocol/prot9galactogoguesEnglish.pdf
- ^ http://www.breastfeeding.org/articles/fenugreek.html
- ^ http://www.breastfeeding.com/all_about/all_about_fenugreek.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
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