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The plant name ‘Fenugreek’ is misleading in relation to this plant’s origins, for it has been long used in India, Iraq and Egypt. The Latin translation for it is ‘Greek Hay’, an unfitting title for a plant whose flavour is outdone by the numerous health benefits it brings to those who consume it. Both the plant and its seed (which is very bitter if not cooked) are widely consumed throughout India and are also used in ayurvedic medicine.
Fenugreek in Indian Cuisines
Fenugreek is known as methi, to those who speak Hindi. It is a vegetable that appears in abundance during the cooler months of the year, as it is leafy in constitution, and is fast to wilt in the harsh summers.
There are a number of ways to prepare methi, but my favourites are; (1) stuffed in paratahs and eaten with a runny egg or a side of fresh dahi (yoghurt) and; (2) mixed with aloo (potatoes) and scooped up with rotis.
Methi Parathas - pluck the leaves of the methi plant, making sure that there are no stalks, and mix them into the flour, before adding the water to form a dough. If you are using our paratha recipe, use 2 cups of methi in place of the potato. Fry an egg so that the yolk is runny, place it on the side of your plate and then rip pieces of the paratha, dunk it in the egg and devour. I also like to eat methi parathas with a bowl of plain yoghurt and a small spoonful of spicy mango achaar (pickle).
- Aloo Methi - Potato pairs well with almost any vegetable, and methi is no exception. When making this dish, get as many hands as you can to pluck the methi leaves from the stalks, because that is most time-consuming part. Once you’ve done this, heat some oil and add the diced and cubed potatoes first, so that they cook. You can add salt and asafoetida at this point. Once the potatoes have cooked, I throw in the methi and cover the pan with a lid. After a few minutes, give it a stir and switch off the stove. Have some hot rotis (flatbread) on the side, to scoop up the aloo methi.
Health Benefits of Fenugreek
The health benefits of Fenugreek are endless to those who consume it regularly. The impact of consuming this plant will vary from person to person as it depends on the constitution of our bodies (prakriti), environmental factors as well as our diets. Always consult your doctor before using natural remedies and medicines as treatments.
Skin and Hair - Fenugreek seeds are anti-inflammatory, which means they can be applied, as a paste, to wounds, acne and even scalps affected with dandruff. In India, fenugreek seed paste is commonly used as a conditioner, on its own, or along with other natural herbs.
Digestion - Fenugreek aids with digestion because it contains a water-soluble fibre. If you have a sore tummy or are constipated, boil fenugreek seeds together with water and drink it like a tea. Though unrelated to digestion, it is also used as a pain relief for women during their period.
Diabetics - If you suffer from diabetes, fenugreek seeds may work as a natural remedy in controlling your blood sugar levels. The seeds are composed of fibres and other chemicals which not only slow down the rate at which the body absorbs carbohydrates and sugar, but can also increase the amount of insulin released.
- Promotes Milk Flow - If you are a breastfeeding mother, fenugreek can assist your body with producing milk. It acts as a galactagogue (no relation to galactic travelling) the milk ducts to increase milk production. In India, breastfeeding mothers consume ‘methi laddoo’ - a bitter sweet made of ground fenugreek seeds, jaggery (unrefined palm sugar) and other spices.
It is also known to increase libido in men, lower cholesterol, relieve sore throats and combat eating disorders through increasing appetite. Now how’s that for a list of achievements?