Fenugreek is native to the eastern Mediterranean and was cultivated in Egypt as early as 1,000 BC. From the bean family both Fenugreek’s seeds and leaves seeds provide some culinary use. The leaves of the Fenugreek plant are also called Methi and are dull green. Fenugreek is also known as Greek hayseed, goat’s horn and Methi. The scientific name of Fenugreek is Trigonella foenum-graecum. Trigonella is a latinized diminutive of the Greek word trigonon meaning “triangle”. The Latin species name foenum graecum means “Greek hay” which refers to its eastern Mediterranean origin as well as to the intense hay like fragrance that is characteristic of dried fenugreek.
Fenugreek has a rich history and has been dated back to the early Roman Empire and has even been discovered in several Egyptian tombs. Grown like most grains this hay crop was originally popular with herds of cattle, goats and sheep.
Fenugreek is now also grown in Argentina, France, Germany, Greece, India, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan and in the US. Our fenugreek is grown in India.
Fenugreek seeds are triangular in shape, caramel colored and they’re rock hard. In order to release their flavor they must first be ground. In addition to Ground Fenugreek we also sell Fenugreek Seeds and the hard to find Fenugreek Leaves. Home cooks often dry roast the seeds before grinding them as lightly roasting them tends to mellow their flavor a bit while also removing some of their inherent bitterness. They may also be soaked for several hours and then ground (if you prefer to use them as a paste). We grind our Ground Fenugreek weekly in small batches.
Unlike many spices that have a high volatile oil content (i.e. cumin, allspice, cardamom and peppercorns) Fenugreek seeds contain only minute quantities of essen¬tial oils. This allows for storing ground fenugreek (also sometimes called fenugreek powder) for a longer period without the flavor dissipating quickly.
Once ground the aroma is almost intoxicating and you’ll 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. The taste is nutty and bittersweet. It has been described as similar to celery seed or lovage. Fenugreek seeds are rich in protein and have a hint of heat to them coming in at a 1-2 on the heat scale.
The culinary use of bitter flavors is a common theme found in cuisines all over the globe and the wide spread popularity of this bitter spice tends to surprise many Western cooks. Fenugreek is especially popular in Armenian, Egyptian, Indian, Iranian, Saudi Arabian and Turkish cuisines.