Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)

Fenugreek is an ancient herb and is mostly used in Middle East, Northern- Eastern Africa and India. An erect hairy annual of the bean family, reaching 30-60 cm (1-2 ft.). The long slender stems bear tripartite, toothed, grey-green obovate leaves, 20-25 mm (3/4-1 in) long. The root is a mass of fingery structures. The sissile axillary flowers are white or pale yellow. The thin, sword-shaped pods are 10-15 cm (4-6 in), with a curved beak-like tip, each carrying 10-20 seeds. The plant radiates a spicy odour which persists on the hands after touching. Fenugreek is used both as an herb (the leaves) and as a spice (the seed).

How to grow
Fenugreek germination benefits from soaking in room temperature for 12 hours. Fenugreek is usually grown as either an spice or as a sprout. Plant in spring/ summer, to early autumn, prefers humus rich, well drained soils in an open sunny position. The seed germinating in 2-7 days. Temperature is 22-27 degree Celsius. Plant spacing is 2 to 3 inches between plants unless grown as a sprout.

Harvesting info
Maturity in approximately 4 months. The common method of harvesting is to uproot the whole plant, allow them to dry in the Sun and then remove the seeds by threshing.

Nutrition info
Fenugreek leaves and stems are rich in calcium, iron, vitamin A and vitamin C. It acts as a medicine as well as an embalming agent. Fenugreek seeds are small, hard and slightly bitter in taste and are rich in vitamin E. Ground fenugreek seeds are a traditional ingredient in Indian curry, powders and pastes. Its flavor is powerful, aromatic and bittersweet, like burnt sugar. There is a bitter aftertaste, similar to celery or lovage.

The fenugreek leaves have bitter-sweet flavor and used as a regular green vegetable in Indian cuisine like dals and vegetables. Fenugreek seed sprouts are used in salads. These sprouts are rich in iron and phosphorous. Juice from the sprouts is considered a cleanser of the kidneys and bladder. Fenugreek was used by the ancient Egyptians to combat fever and grown in classical times as cattle fodder. Fenugreek is a digestive aid. As an emollient it is used in poultices for boils, cysts and other complaints. Reducing the sugar level of the blood, it is used in diabetes in conjunction with insulin. It also lowers blood pressure. Fenugreek relieves congestion, reduces inflammation and fights infection. Fenugreek seeds contain hormone precursors that increase breast milk supply.

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