On those days when you are procrastinating by doing things like alphabetizing your spice rack, I’ll bet almost anything that you don’t have (and have probably never heard of, much less used) an herb called, fenugreek.
Sometimes known as “Greek hay,” fenugreek is actually a member of the pea family. It’s grown mostly in the Mediterranean, North Africa, the Middle East and India. Its seeds and leaves have been used all around the world for hundreds, if not thousands of years for medicinal purposes. Both are also dried and ground for use as recipe ingredients for cooking. Fenugreek’s flavor is slightly sweet, nutty and often described as a cross between celery and maple. It can also be a little bitter. The tough, square seeds are soaked, toasted and ground for curry powder. It’s most commonly used to season savory meat dishes, vegetables, and rice.
Fenugreek has a number of properties that make it an effective FoodTrient:
Appetite Stimulant – Most of us struggle to eat less, but there are certain conditions where a person’s appetite needs boosting, such as individuals suffering from anorexia nervosa or going through chemotherapy. Studies have indicated that fenugreek can increase appetite and the motivation to eat. The University of Maryland Medical Center has recommended that patients dealing with anorexia nervosa take 250-500 milligrams of fenugreek 1-3 times per day.
Blood Sugar Management – Consuming fenugreek has been shown to improve blood sugar levels for individuals with type 2 diabetes because of its low glycemic index. A study conducted on those with type 2 diabetes showed that participants who consumed fenugreek seeds soaked in water had a more controlled blood sugar compared to those patients who did not.
Increased Libido in Men – Fenugreek has been used for years as a folk remedy to increase libido in men. While there have not been enough formal studies to definitively quantify its effectiveness, some studies do suggest that it may raise testosterone levels to counteract lack of libido, which is one of the main side effects of anti-depressant medications.
Helps Reduce Inflammation – For those who consume too many pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids in their diet, fenugreek has been used for years to reduce inflammatory response in the body. This can help with conditions such as mouth ulcers, bronchitis, tuberculosis, and chronic coughs and coronary vascular disease.
Lower Cholesterol — In addition to cholesterol medications, fenugreek has been shown to help lower cholesterol and triglycerides levels in participants with high lipids levels.
Relief of Constipation – Fenugreek contains water soluble fiber, which is a good, natural alternative to harsh laxatives and stimulants. Soluble fiber works by attracting water and turning the contents of the intestines into gel during digestion.
Aids Lactation – Fenugreek has been associated with increasing milk supply in lactating women. Though fenugreek supplements are readily available in health food stores and online, the benefit for nursing mothers is anecdotal. However, fenugreek presents no adverse effects to nursing infants. Interestingly, many of the herbs such as thistle, fennel and alfalfa, and prescription medicines used for increasing milk supply also have uses related to digestive problems. This suggests that a well-fed mother is a mother who can feed well!
Reduces Menstrual Discomfort and Symptoms of PMS — For thousands of years, women have relied on fenugreek as an herbal medicine to aid in reducing menstrual discomfort and symptoms of PMS due to its diuretic, antihistamine and antioxidant properties. There has been research suggesting that women who used supplements containing fenugreek experienced less menstrual discomfort compared to those who did not use them.
Skin Infections and Wounds – Fenugreek is found in external remedies to reduce inflammation, help minimize pain and swelling associated with wounds and skin ulcers, as well as help to relieve dandruff and eczema.
Following are some recipes that include fenugreek and are exotic but simple to prepare:
This recipe is easy to make and so flavorful! You can control the spiciness by adding or subtracting the amount of chilies in the dish.
3 Tbs. water
6 cloves garlic
2 serrano chile peppers, seeded and stemmed
1 (2 inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup ghee (clarified butter)
2 pounds chicken drumsticks or chicken thighs
salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 large white onion, sliced
tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
4 plum tomatoes, chopped
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbs. dried fenugreek leaves
- Puree water, garlic, serrano chile peppers, and ginger together in a blender or food processor until smooth.
- Heat ghee in a 6-quart saucepan over medium heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Cook chicken in hot ghee until browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
- Cook and stir garlic/ginger/pepper puree in the saucepan until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Add onion and cook until golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Add fenugreek, coriander, cumin, garam masala, and turmeric to onion mixture; cook and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Stir tomatoes into onion mixture; cook and stir until tomatoes are lightly browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Add chicken, milk, and cream; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover saucepan, and cook until chicken is no longer pink in the center and tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer chicken to a serving platter using a slotted spoon. Continue cooking sauce until slightly reduced, 5 to 7 more minutes. Stir cilantro into sauce and pour over chicken. Serve with basmati rice.
Jamaican-Style Coconut Rice with Curried Corn
This dish is perfect for the summer with all the beautiful corn available. It will be an unforgettable side dish for your next barbeque.
Serves4 to 6
For the Jamaican curry powder (makes 1/2 cup spice blend—enough for another dish later):
2 Tbs. turmeric
1 Tbs. coriander seeds, toasted
1 Tbs. cumin seeds, toasted
3 tsp. fenugreek seeds, toasted
2 tsp. yellow mustard seeds, toasted
2 tsp. black peppercorns
1 1/2 tsp. allspice berries, toasted
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. granulated garlic
3/4 tsp. cayenne (more or less to taste)
For the rice:
3/4 cup coconut milk
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 tsp. coarse sea salt
1 cup short-grain brown rice, soaked in water overnight and drained well
For the corn:
1 tsp. coarse sea salt
Kernels from 5 ears of sweet corn (about 3 1/2 cups of kernels)
1 Tbs. coconut oil
1 Tbs. fresh thyme, chopped
1 Tbs . fresh parsley, chopped
For the Jamaican curry powder:
- Combine all the ingredients in a mortar or spice grinder and grind into a fine powder. Transfer to a jar, and seal tightly. Stored at room temperature, it will keep for 6 months. (Note: You will only need 3/4 tsp. for this recipe.)
For the rice:
- Combine the coconut milk, water, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the rice, stir well, and return to a boil. Immediately decrease the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 50 minutes, or until all of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for at least 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.
To prepare the corn:
- Bring 8 cups of water to boil in a large pot. Add the 1 tsp. of salt, then add the corn. Immediately remove from the heat and let sit for 30 seconds. Drain well.
- Warm the oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add ¾ tsp. Jamaican curry powder and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Season with sea salt, if desired. Add the corn and sauté until heated through, 3 to 5 minutes.
- To serve, spoon the corn over the rice and garnish with the chopped thyme and parsley.
Reduce inflammatory process in cells, tissues, and blood vessels, helping to slow aging and reduce risk of long-term disease.
Prevents and repairs oxidative damage to cells caused by free radicals.
Support the body’s resistance to infection and strengthen immune vigilance and response.
Improves mood, memory, and focus.
Reduces risk factors for common degenerative and age-related diseases.