What are Fenugreek Seeds
Fenugreek Seed (pronounced "feh-nyuh-greek"), Trigonella foenum-graecum, is also called fenugreek, or methi seeds.
Fenugreek Seed has very little essential oil, less than .02%.
Fenugreek seeds are light yellow to brown in color, hard yet smooth, and have a diagonal groove that divides each seed. While Fenugreek is an important spice in India, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Armenia, and Turkey cooking, this spice is not as popular with Western cooks. The seeds are often dry roasted in a skillet before grinding which mellows their flavor and removes some of the bitterness.
What do Dried Fenugreek Seeds Taste Like
Nutty and bittersweet.
Once ground the aroma is almost intoxicating and you will notice a pungent, spiciness with undertones of butterscotch and sweet nuts. This is a spice where the flavor does not come close to matching the aroma.
How do You use Fenugreek Seeds
Use Ground Fenugreek in fish curries, with root or green vegetables, lamb, legumes, potatoes, rice and tomatoes. When ground into flour it is used in spicy flatbread. Not as popular with Western cooks, Fenugreek enjoys it's reputation as a sought after spice in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking.
Works well in combination with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, fennel seed, garlic, nigella, pepper and turmeric.
Because of the strong flavor of Fenugreek we recommend that you use smaller amounts to start until you get use to the flavor. Remember you can never remove a spice already added to a dish but you can always add more.
What can I Substitute for Fenugreek Seeds
Substitute an equal amount of Ground Brown Mustard in place of fenugreek seed. To get the sweet, caramel flavor, add a little bit of maple syrup. You should add the maple syrup toward the end of the cooking time as its flavor can fade when it is cooked.
History of Fenugreek
Fenugreek is one of the oldest medicinal plants and originated in India and Northern Africa1. Charred fenugreek seeds have been recovered from Tell Halal, Iraq, (carbon dated to 4000 BC) and the ancient Israelite city, Tel Lachish, from the late Bronze Age (1550 - 1200 BC)2. Fenugreek seeds were found in the tomb of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun (who ruled from 1332 – 1323 BC)3. They are believed to have been cultivated in Egypt as early as 1000 BC4.
Fenugreek is one of the oldest known medicinal plants and Hippocrates (460 – 370 BC), the father of medicine, spoke highly of it5. Fenugreek was first introduced into Chinese medicine in the Sung dynasty in 1057 AD6.
Fenugreek made its way into Central Europe at the start of the ninth century7 and Charlemagne, the medieval emperor who ruled much of Western Europe from 768 to 814 AD, had farmers plant fenugreek in large quantities along with other culinary herbs8. Some food historians believe that is was actually Benedictine monks who introduced the plant to medieval (500 -1476 AD) Europe9. Fenugreek was written about in 1578 when detailed information of the plant is described in the Kolozsvar Herbarium complied by Melius. In this Transylvanian Herbarium the 'warming and very drying' nature of fenugreek and its antique sources are discussed at length10.
Fenugreek was imported by early settlers to America and was later reintroduced by the US Department of Agriculture, New Crops Research Branch. In the New World this plant has been used primarily for green manure and for fodder (to feed domesticated livestock)11.
The fenugreek plant requires 5–10 days for germination with the first trifoliate leaf appearing 5–8 days after germination. This is a fast-growing plant and can be found on dry grasslands, cultivated or uncultivated lands, hillsides, planes as well as along field edges. It does best in well-drained loamy or sandy or clayey loam soils. It is tolerant to frost, but frost damage can occur at the flowering and early grain formation stages12. Depending on the soil type and seasonal rainfall normally there are 6-7 irrigations for plants grown in light soil and 4-5 irrigations in heavy soil13. Fenugreek needs four to seven months to reach full maturity14. The flowering period is midsummer (June to August) with the seeds ripening during late summer (August to September)15.
Fenugreek is an annual legume, diploid (having two sets of chromosomes) plant16 that grows erect and closely resembling large clover. The stem is long, cylindrical (12-24 inches long) and pinkish in color; with large roots17. The leaves are light green in color and are pinnately trifoliate. The plant flowers in approximately 30-37 days after sowing and the duration of the flowering phase is 7-8 days18. It blooms with white to yellowish white, axillary, and sessile flowers and each flower has 5 petals. The ovary is deep green and glaucous while the pollen grains are oval to circular in shape19. The Fenugreek flower produces brownish to yellowish brown six-inch-long pods with each pod containing 10–20 seeds each. The seeds are small (approximately 2/10" long), hard, smooth, and dull yellow to brownish yellow in color20.
Depending on the growing season, seeds are ready to be harvested approximately 165 days after sowing. Once 70% of the pods have turned yellow it is time for harvesting. At that point either the entire plant is pulled out of the ground, or the plant is cut at the base with a sickle. The plants are then bundled together for drying in the sun. When commercially cultivated seeds are separated from the plants by mechanical thresher winnowing21.
Where is Our Fenugreek Seeds From
|Also Called||Fenugreek or methi seeds|
|Recommended Uses||Use in fish curries, with root or green vegetables, lamb, legumes, potatoes, rice, tomatoes and spicy flatbread|
|Flavor Profile||Nutty and bittersweet|
|Botanical Name||Trigonella foenum-graecum|
|Cuisine||Indian, Middle Eastern|
|How To Store||Airtight container in a cool, dark place|
|Shelf Life||1-2 years|
|Country of Origin||India|
|Dietary Preferences||Gluten Free, Kosher, Non-GMO|
Hungry for More Information
1 Upaganlawar, A., Badole, S., & Bodhankar, S. (2013). Antidiabetic Potential of Trigonelline and 4-Hydroxyisoleucine in Fenugreek. Bioactive Food as Dietary Interventions for Diabetes, 59–64.
2 Preedy, V. R., & Watson, R. R. (2020). Nuts and Seeds in Health and Disease Prevention (2nd ed.). Academic Press.
3 Manniche, L. (2006). An Ancient Egyptian Herbal(1st University of Texas Press ed). British Museum Press (Distribution).
4 Raghavan, S. (2006). Handbook of Spices, Seasonings, and Flavorings (2nd ed.). CRC Press.
5 Lust, J. (2014). The Herb Book: The Most Complete Catalog of Herbs Ever Published (Dover Cookbooks) (Reprint ed.). Dover Publications.
6 Jones, C. P. (1989). Extracts from Nature. Tigerprint Limited.
7 Schauenberg, P. and Paris, F. (1990) Guide to Medicinal Plants, Lutterworth Press.
8 Fazli, F.R.Y. and Hardman, R. (1968) The spice fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum L.). Its commercial varieties of seed as a source of diosgenin. Tropical Science, 10, 66-78.
9 Stuart, M. (1987). The Encyclopedia of Herbs and Herbalism. Crescent.
10 Hidvegi, M., El-Kady, A., Laszitity, R. Bekes, F., and Simon-Sarkadi, L. (1984) Contribution to the nutritional characterization of fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum L.). Acta Alimentaria, 13(4), 315-24
11 Leppik, E. E., & US Department Of Agriculture, Crops Research Division. (1960). Cercospora traversiana and some pathogens of fenugreek new to North America. THE PLANT DISEASE REPORTER, 44(1), 40.
12, 17 Farooqi, A. A., & Srinivasappa, S. B. S. K. N. (2005). Cultivation of Spice Crops. Orient Blackswan.
13, 21 Naeem, M., Aftab, T., & Khan, M. M. A. (2021). Fenugreek: Biology and Applications. Springer.
14 Petropoulos, G. A. (2002). Fenugreek: The Genus Trigonella (Medicinal and Aromatic Plants - Industrial Profiles Book 11) (1st ed.). CRC Press.
15 McCormick, K., Norton, R., Eagles, H.A., 2006. Fenugreek has a role in south-eastern Australian farming systems. In: Proceedings of “Groundbreaking stuff”, 13th Annual Agronomy Conference, Perth, Australia, 2006, 639
16 Ahmad, F., Acharya, S. N., Mir, Z., & Mir, P. S. (1999). Localization and activity of rRNA genes on fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum L.) chromosomes by fluorescent in situ hybridization and silver staining. Theoretical and Applied Genetics, 98(2), 179–185
17, 19 Basu, S.K., 2006. Seed Production Technology for Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum L.) in the Canadian Prairies (thesis). University of Lethbridge, Faculty of Arts Sci., Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.
20 Altuntaş, E., Özgöz, E., & Taşer, F. (2005). Some physical properties of fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graceum L.) seeds. Journal of Food Engineering, 71(1), 37–43.
Serving Size1 tsp
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*