The Spice Series: Fenugreek


This is a continuation of my Spice Series. Welcome to my information on Fenugreek!

Illustration by Christy Beckwith


**Fenugreek is a common spice in Asia and the Middle East. However, it is still pretty unknown in the Western world. I hope to help spread the word about this fantastic spice.


**This plant has yellow and white flowers and very closely resembles alfalfa. In ancient Egypt, it was grown as fodder for animals.


**There is a story about how once in New York, the city’s citizens woke up to the whole city smelling like maple syrup. Investigations found that the winds were unique that day and brought the smells from a fenugreek plant miles away. Fenugreek seeds have little smell when they are whole, but when they are ground, they release an aroma of sweet nuts and butterscotch, aka a maple syrup smell.


**Besides the seeds, fenugreek leaves are used as well. They have a bitter but supposedly addictive taste and are bursting with healthy properties.



**Caution: this is the first spice I have researched that does have a warning: pregnant women should not eat fenugreek seeds because they contain ‘saponins’, a chemical compound that is found in oral contraceptives and could induce a miscarriage.


This article includes information on the medicinal benefitsculinary uses, and even how to grow your own fenugreek. I hope you like this material, and, as always, if you have any questions/comments/additional sources for me, please post in the comment section below! Enjoy!




Medicinal Benefits:fenugreek leaves and seeds


**I was overwhelmed by the medicinal benefits I was reading about fenugreek. I don’t want to make this post too long, so I chose the main benefits that were repeated more than once. After researching fenugreek, I have decided that I need to start growing and using this spice as soon as possible. I hope my readers feel the same way!



**Fenugreek seeds may help prevent and/or treat: Cancer, Cataracts, Cholesterol problems, Diabetes type 2, Gallstones, Infections (both bacterial and viral), Kidney stones, Liver disease, and Overweight issues.


**One of the biggest medicinal benefits is for Diabetes type 2. More than 100 scientific studies have found that fenugreek can regulate blood sugar. It balances daily blood sugar levels, increases enzymes that help regulate blood sugar, and activates insulin signals in the cells. It is a very safe spice to use for controlling diabetes (but please make sure to research fenugreek more if you are interested in this aspect of the plant!)


**For Gallstones and Kidney stones, fenugreek not only prevents stones, but shrinks the stones you already have, and also prevents a recurrence of them.


**Fenugreek works for weight loss because the type of fiber it contains helps give you a feeling of fullness and makes you less hungry.


**Studies have also shown that fenugreek seeds can slow or stop the growth of breast, pancreatic, and prostate cancer cells. More studies are being done on the cancer-stopping chemical compounds of fenugreek even today.


Fenugreek Seeds


**Fenugreek is also a legendary reputation as an aphrodisiac. It has large amounts of the hormone compound called ‘diosgenin’, which increases the libido and also helps increase women’s bust size.


**This spice is quite the friend for women’s ailments: it helps regulate menstrual cycles, treats vaginal dryness, eases labor pains, and encourages milk flow for breastfeeding. In fact, doctors often prescribe fenugreek to women who have twins, so that they can produce enough milk for both babies.



**If you soak the seeds in water, they will soften and can then be used to normalize digestion. The seeds counter the effects of both constipation and diarrhea.


**It helps with inflammation and infection, including: arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, and colds/flus.



**Fenugreek is also loaded with protein, vitamin C, potassium, niacin, and other beneficial minerals and vitamins for overall health.


**Finally, fenugreek is a popular ingredient for hair treatments. It helps prevent hair loss, promotes hair growth, and preserves natural hair color. Check out this amazing website for some fantastic hair treatment ideas: http://www.stylecraze.com/articles/fenugree-beauty-benefits/




**Are there any more fenugreek medicinal benefits that you think I should have included? I tried to limit myself to the most important ones, but if you think I missed one main benefits, please let me know! After reading this section, have you decided to include fenugreek in your diet? I would love to know that too!




Culinary Uses:Fenugreek_leaves

**Fenugreek can be used the three forms: the seeds, the leaves, and you can also make sprouts.


**Fenugreek is a popular spice in Asia and Middle Eastern countries. It is used there to make curries, chutneys, pickles, relishes, and many vegetarian dishes.


**In India, the seeds are dry roasted or fried in hot oil. They use them for curries, broth-cased stews called ‘sambars’, and flat breads. They also add fenugreek seeds to starchy vegetable dishes to help aid in digestion.


**In the Middle East, the seeds are soaked overnight in cold water and made into a paste with other spices to make a condiment called ‘hilbeh’. They also use the paste to marinate meat.


**In ancient Egyptian times, this was used as animal fodder. For this reason, any Middle Eastern recipes with beef or lamb often uses fenugreek in it.



**Do NOT eat fenugreek seeds raw. They are hard as a rock and can damage your teeth. They also have no flavor in this form. Cooking them makes them soft (which is easier to grind) and makes a bitter-ish, nutty taste like maple syrup.


**One popular way to cook them is to lightly toast them, just be careful not to burn the seeds. Toasting the seeds will carmelize them and make that maple syrup taste. You can also soak the seeds overnight to make them soft and jelly-like. You can grind the seeds after you roast/toast them.


Fenugreek Sprouts

**You can also sprout fresh seeds. Soak them in water overnight and put them in a jar covered with a wet paper towel for a few days until tiny green shoots appear. The sprouts have a peppery, mildly spicy taste. There are countless articles online about how to make sprouts that you can look up for more details (I promise to add my own when I start making them).



**Add fenugreek to a dish carefully because it is a strong flavor that can dominate the meal if you add too much.


**Fenugreek seed pairs well with these spices: Black pepper, Chile, Clove, Coriander, Cumin, Curry leaf, Garlic, Ginger, Mustard seed, Star anise, Tamarind, and Turmeric.


**Here are some ways to get more fenugreek into your diet:


(1)    Add a sprinkling of ground seeds to the breading for fried foods.

(2)    Sprinkle a few seeds in vegetable casseroles.

(3)    Add a pinch of ground fenugreek to cookie recipes.

(4)    Add a pinch or two to mayonnaise to give it a mustard-like bite.

(5)    Mix roasted ground seeds with dried, ground chiles and other spices, and use as a dipping sauce for bread.

(6)    Add roasted and coarsely chopped seeds to salads, which adds an interesting crunchiness.

(7)    Roasted seeds can be used as a coffee substitute.


**Fenugreek seeds are hard, yellowish-brown, and look like tiny pebbles. They are sold whole or ground in Indian markets, otherwise you might need to buy this one online.


**Whole seeds stay fresh for three years, if kept in an airtight container out of sunlight. As is usually the case with spices, fenugreek’s flavor disappears quickly once the seeds are ground. Ground seeds will keep for only a few months.




How to Grow:fenugreek-plants

**Fenugreek can be grown at home to use as either sprouts, greens, or for the seeds.

**It is not that fussy of a plant and can be grown in any climate, as far as I can tell.

**It looks a lot like alfalfa or clover, a very pretty green plant with lovely little flowers.





**Fenugreek grows to about 2 feet tall with yellow/white flowers and long yellow seedpods.

**It likes full sun and well-drained, neutral to slightly acidic soil.

**You can plant this in a container as long as you feed it compost.




**This plant does not like to be transplanted. It is best to sow seeds in spring after the threat of frost has passed. The seeds will sprout quickly.


**Scatter the seeds in the desired growing and not in rows.





**Fenugreek needs fertile soil, so make sure to give it generous amounts of compost.

**I could not find any other problems or maintenance that you would need to do, this seems like a pretty easy going plant.


Harvesting: Fenugreek-sprouts

**Some like to harvest fenugreek as micro-greens or sprouts. You can do this by following directions you have about doing sprouts or by just harvesting the plant just before the first true leaves appear, which is usually 5-7 days after germination.



**You can also eat the leaves, which have a bitter taste. Harvest these leaves when the plant is approximately 8 inches tall and use as a salad or vegetable.


**For fenugreek seeds, the whole plant is uprooted and dried for a few days before threshing. This is done in the fall and you can dry the plants in the sun.


**After threshing, gather the seeds and dry them as well (yes, first you dry the plant and then you dry the seeds).

**Store your seeds in an airtight container in a dry, dark location until you need them. They will be fresh for 3 years.


There you go! This is most of the information that I could find about fenugreek. Please click here for my introduction to my Spice Series.  Again, if you have any comments, questions, or extra information for me, please feel free to post in the comment section below!

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