Spices - Fenugreek Seeds
Arabic Hulba, Hilbeh
Chinese Hu lu ba
Danish Bukkehorns-fro
Dutch Fenegriek
Esperanto Fenugreko
French Fenugrek, Sénegré, Trigonelle
German Bockshornklee, Griechisch Heu
Italian Fieno greco
Norwegian Bukkehornklover
Sanskrit Methika
Singhalese Uluhaal
Spanish Alholva, Fenogreco
Swedish Bockhornsklover

Fenugreek is an ancient spice Bitter and aromatic. It has been planted in Syria since a long time ago. It is usually planted in many Syrian regions during December /January and it is harvested in June/July. Its origin expands from the Mediterranean to China.

It is now mostly used in the Middle East and India, especially for pickles. Dry roasting can enhance the flavor and reduce the bitterness, provided care is taken not to overheat the seeds. Indians also like the fresh leaves, which are eaten as a very tasty vegetable and prepared, like spinach; sometimes, they are found in Indian yeast bread (then called methi naan). fabaceae(bean family). The leaves' fragrance slightly resembles Iovage.


Main Constituents

Fenugreek contains only minute quantities of an essential oil. In the essential oil, 40 different compounds were found, of which 3-hydroxy-4,5-dimethyl-oxolane-2-one seems to be the most important aroma component; furthermore, n-alkanes, sesquiterpenes, alkanoles and lactones were reported.

Among the non-volatile components, the furostanol glycosides are probably responsible for the bitter taste; among the several more compounds yet identified, sterol- and diosgenin derivatives (of potential interest for the pharmaceutical industry) and trigonellin (N-methyl-pyridinium-3-carboxylate, 0.4%) are most worth noting.


It’s usage all over the world

It is now mostly used in the Middle East and India, especially for pickles. Dry roasting can enhance the flavor and reduce the bitterness, provided care is taken not to overheat the seeds. Small amounts of fenugreek should be found in good curry powders. Fenugreek is also popular in the South of India and appears in the ubiquitous Tamil spice mixture sambaar podi. Lastly, the bitter-aromatic seeds constitute an essential part of the Bengali "five spice" mixture panch phoron. Fenugreek is also known in Northern and Eastern Africa; Egyptian papyri mention the plant as one necessary for the mummification process. The Ethiopian spice mixture berebere contains small amounts of fenugreek.

The wide-spread popularity of this bitter spice may surprise Western cooks; although bitterness arises unpleasant associations in most people, culinary use of bitter taste is a theme found all over the globe. Popular in Europe is orange peel (e.g., for British marmalade), Furthermore suggested to spice up vegetables or even fruit salads. It is worth noting that bitter taste is strongly appetizing and, thus, has indeed true culinary merit. Nonetheless, bitter herbs are valuable for cooking and do enhance the food's quality; most noteworthy, they stimulate bile secretion and thereby aid digestion, which is especially advantageous for fat meat. So, the bitter taste of bitter almonds gives way to the well-known "bitter almond fragrance" of benzaldehyd only after some chewing; very similar remarks hold for Mahaleb Cherry stones.

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