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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Genus: Trigonella
Species: T. foenum-graecum
Binomial name
Trigonella foenum-graecum
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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.


[edit] History

The name fenugreek or foenum-graecum is from Latin for "Greek hay". The Kannada name is mentya. The Tamil name for it is Vendayam. The Telugu name for it is Menthulu. In Hindi it is called methi. The plant's similarity to wild clover has likely spawned its Swedish name, "bockhornsklöver", 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.[2] Cato the Elder lists fenugreek with clover and vetch as crops grown to feed cattle (De Agri Cultura, 27).

[edit] Use

The rhombic yellow to amber colored fenugreek seed, commonly called maithray, is frequently used in the preparation of pickles, curry powders, and pastes, and is often encountered in the cuisine of the Indian subcontinent. The young leaves and sprouts of fenugreek are eaten as greens, and the fresh or dried leaves are used to flavor other dishes. The dried leaves (called kasuri methi) have a bitter taste and a strong characteristic smell.

In India, fenugreek seeds are mixed with yogurt and used as a conditioner for hair. It is one of the three ingredients of idli and dosa (Kannada). It is also one of the ingredients in the making of khakhra, a type of bread. It is used in injera/taita, a type of bread unique to 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 pastirma. 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 shambalîleh 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.

Jews customarily eat fenugreek during the meal of the first and/or second night of Rosh Hashana (The New Year). It is green and is similar to the verb ירבו (to increase) in Hebrew, which symbolically signifies a prayer that their merits will increase. Yemenite Jews often prepare a foamy substance from fenugreek seeds that they add to soups.

In Bulgaria, fenugreek seeds are used as one of the ingredients in a traditional spice mixture called sharena sol (шарена сол).

In the United States, where maple syrup is popular but expensive, fenugreek is widely used in lower-cost syrup products as a maple syrup flavoring.

Fenugreek seeds are a galactagogue that is often used to increase milk supply in lactating women.[3] 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.

[edit] Seeds

Dried fenugreek seed

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 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.

Fenugreek is used as a digestive aid.

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%. [4] It can be found in capsule form in many health food stores.[5]

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)[citation needed]. 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.[6] 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.

[edit] News

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.[1]

[edit] References

  1. ^ "Trigonella foenum-graecum information from NPGS/GRIN". www.ars-grin.gov. http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?40421. Retrieved on 2008-03-13. 
  2. ^ Daniel Zohary and Maria Hopf, Domestication of plants in the Old World, third edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 122.
  3. ^ 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 
  4. ^ http://www.breastfeeding.org/articles/fenugreek.html
  5. ^ http://www.breastfeeding.com/all_about/all_about_fenugreek.html
  6. ^ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2194788 Effect of fenugreek seeds on blood glucose and serum lipids in type I diabetes

[edit] External links

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