Fenugreek / Methi : An annual herb with light green leaves and tiny white flowers. It is native to southern Europe, the Mediterranean region and Western Asia. It’s of the pea family (Fabaceae) and also known as Greek hay (Trigonella foenum-graecum). The fenugreek plant grows to about two to three feet tall, and the seed pods contain 10–20 small, flat, yellow-brown, pungent and aromatic seeds.
Scientific Name: Trigonella foenum-graecum
Origin : Western Asia, Southern Europe, and Middle-East
Other Indian Names for Fenugreek: Methi (Hindi), Mentulu (Telugu), Ventayam (Tamil), Uluva(Malayalam)
It was the season for new babies, every mom I knew at work would take a break to pump milk during lunch hour. It was during one such casual chats over lunch, a colleague and a new mom, asked me curiously, “Do you know anything about Fenugreek ? My doctor, has advised me to take fenugreek paste for increased milk production for the baby. I thought I will ask you about it, since you are from India & probably know what it is” . I smiled big, “Of course, I do” I said, and continued to tell her all about the plant and the seeds and how she can do a paste of it at home or add it in her food. She was totally surprised & impressed, that I knew so much about the plant, the seeds and its many benefits.
Fact : India accounts for its major production throughout the world, with 80% output coming directly from Rajasthan (a northern state in India).
When you are an Indian by birth and have grown up listening to the stories of Methi/Fenugreek & its many benefits, having eaten them fresh or dry, there is no missing its many benefits. Flash back, a memory of my grand mom telling me to soak the seeds overnight & then apply the soaked water and methi/fenugreek paste on my face the next morning as a teen, so the skin stays “fresh & pretty” (in her words!). Not sure, if I followed her instructions then, but that was the first time I looked into the spice box in the kitchen to see what these methi/fenugreek seeds looked like. Small, flat, a golden yellow and unassuming, but packed with so many health benefits I later came to know.
It was customary for any elderly person who visits a new mom to bring in a ‘barani’ /jar full of ‘Methi Adadhina’ a sticky gooey sweet delicacy made with methi/fenugreek seeds/jaggery and loads of ghee/clarified butter. Growing up with many cousin sisters who were all having babies around the same time, I remember eating this sweet delicacy forever during holiday season along with the new mom (my cousin sisters) because it tasted so good. It was later that I found that it improved the milk production immensely for new moms, while for us kids at that time , it probably helped us improve our complexion. We ate it just for the pure taste of sweet deliciousness ,it offered. The leaves were used in our curries and flavored rice too, so yes, Fenugreek/Methi was no stranger to me.
History and Origin :
Fenugreek has a long history as both a culinary and medicinal herb in the ancient world. It was one of the spices the Egyptians used for embalming, and the Greeks and Romans used it for cattle fodder, which is where the Latin foenum graecum, meaning “Greek hay,” originated. It also was grown extensively in the imperial gardens of Charlemagne. The first recorded use of fenugreek is described on an ancient Egyptian papyrus dated as far back as 1500 B.C.
Fenugreek is native to southern Europe, the Mediterranean region and Western Asia. It’s cultivated from western Europe to China for the aromatic seeds and is still grown for fodder in parts of Europe and northern Africa. Fenugreek is an indispensable ingredient in Indian curries.
Health Benefits of Fenugreek :
- Increase breast milk production in lactating women
- Promotes Hair Growth
- Aids Diabetes Treatment
- Improves Skin Health
- Helps manage cholesterol and triglyceride levels
- Reduced Risk of Alzheimer’s
- Has anti inflammatory and antimicrobial properties
- Promotes Digestive & Kidney health
- Alleviates menstrual cramps
- Induces and eases childbirth
- Boosts Testosterone levels
- Boosts Libido
- Minimizes symptoms of menopause
- Prevents premature graying of hair & hair loss
- Has Anti aging effects
- Aids in increasing the size of bust & butt (lesser known facts!)
How to use Fenugreek in your cooking :
Fenugreek seeds have a somewhat bitter taste, similar to celery, maple syrup or burnt sugar, and are often used to make medicine. However, it has a far more pleasant taste when cooked. The graecum seeds, which are usually dried and ground, are the most widely used part of fenugreek. The leaves are often used in cooking as well.
Listed below are my published posts on Methi/Fenugreek recipes for your interest :