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Fenugreek: greens and seeds

Fenugreek (Trigonella graecum) is a leguminous spice crop. The name comes from Foenum-graecum, meaning Greek Hay. A slender annual herb of the pea family (Fabaceae), the seed is used as a medicinal herb across many cultures in ancient times. Medicinally it was used for the treatment of wounds, abscesses, arthritis, bronchitis, and digestive problems. Traditional Chinese herbalists used the seed for kidney problems and conditions affecting the male reproductive tract. In Europe and North Africa, the plant was often used as a green manure to improve the soil or to improve the smell of poor hay and make it more palatable for the animals.

In the Middle East and Far East, the seeds are widely used for cooking, and in India and the Middle East the young, tender greens are a popular vegetable or salad green. This is my favorite use, and the reason I put it in my garden.

Fenugreek is an erect annual herb, growing about 2 feet high, similar to alfalfa (trifoliate). White flowers appear in early summer and develop into pods that are long, narrow and sickle-shaped. Each pod contains 10-20 seeds. The seeds' aroma and taste are strong, sweetish, and somewhat bitter, reminiscent of burnt sugar. They are starchy in texture and may be mixed with flour for bread or eaten raw or cooked.

Fenugreek likes hot and dry conditions. It may be grown on a fairly wide range of soils, but is best adapted to well-drained rich soils. Growth is slow and weak in cold temperatures and wet soils. As a legume, it requires little or no nitrogen fertilizer and can actually improve the nitrogen status of the soil.

Fenugreek interacts with several prescription meds. Check Healthnotes Clinical Essentials for further information. Try a stew of mixed greens with a Middle eastern accent: Gormeh-Sabzi.