Fenugreek (/ˈfɛnjʉɡriːk/; Trigonella foenum-graecum) is an annual plant in the family Fabaceae with leaves consisting of three small obovate to oblong leaflets. It is cultivated worldwide as a semi-arid crop, and its seeds are a common ingredient in dishes from the Indian Subcontinent.
Regional Names for Fenugreek:
Fenugreek is known as methi in Marathi (मेथी), Oriya (Metthi), Punjabi (ਮੇਥੀ), (“Xulbad” in Somali) or (میتھی), Hindi (मेथी), Urdu(میتھی), Bengali (মেথি) and Nepali (मेथी), as menthiyam, and venthayam (வெந்தயம்) in Tamil, “uluhaal” (උළුහාල්) in Sinhala, ShOoT (שוט) in Hebrew, (çemen tozu) in Turkish, Malkhoza (ملخوزه) in Pashto, Helba (حلبة) in Arabic and Dari, Alholva in Spanish, Shanbelileh (شنبلیله) in Persian, menthya (ಮೆಂಥ್ಯ) in Kannada, uluwa (ഉലുവ) in Malayalam, moshoseitaro (μοσχοσίταρο) or (τριγωνέλλα) or (τήλις) in Greek and menthulu (మెంతులు) in Telugu.
Major fenugreek-producing countries are Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Iran, Nepal, Bangladesh, Argentina, Egypt, France, Spain, Turkey and Morocco. The largest producer is India, where the major producing states are Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Haryana, and Punjab. Rajasthan accounts for over 80% of India’s output
Uses of fenugreek in different cuisines:
Fenugreek is used as an herb (dried or fresh leaves), spice (seeds), and vegetable (fresh leaves, sprouts, and microgreens). Sotolon is the chemical responsible for fenugreek’s distinctive sweet smell.
Cuboid-shaped, yellow-to-amber colored fenugreek seeds are frequently encountered in the cuisines of the Indian subcontinent, used both whole and powdered in the preparation of pickles, vegetable dishes, daals (pulses/lentils), and spice mixes such as panch phoron (5 spices mixture) and sambar powder. They are often roasted to reduce bitterness and enhance flavor.
Fresh fenugreek leaves are an ingredient in some Indian curries. Sprouted seeds and microgreens are used in salads. When harvested as microgreens, fenugreek is known as Samudra Methi in Maharashtra, especially in and around Mumbai, where it is often grown near the sea in the sandy tracts, hence the name (Samudra, “ocean” in Sanskrit). Samudra Methi is also grown in dry river beds in the Gangetic plains. When sold as a vegetable in India the young plants are harvested with their roots still attached and sold in small bundles in the markets and bazaars. Any remaining soil is washed off to extend their shelf life.
In Persian cuisine, fenugreek leaves are called شنبلیله (shanbalile). They are the key ingredient and one of several greens incorporated into ghormeh sabzi and Eshkeneh, often said to be the Iranian national dishes.
Fenugreek is used in Eritrean and Ethiopian cuisine. The word for fenugreek in Amharic is abesh (or abish), and the seed is used in Ethiopia as a natural herbal medicine in the treatment of diabetes.
Yemenite Jews following the interpretation of Rabbi Salomon Isaacides, Rashi, believe fenugreek, which they call hilbeh, hilba, helba, or halba (חילבה) is the Talmudic Rubia (רוביא). They use it to produce a sauce also called hilbeh,reminiscent of curry. It is consumed daily and ceremoniously during the meal of the first and/or second night of Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year).