Fenugreek seeds are rich in protein and in some cultures both the leaves and seeds are consumed as a food. As a seasoning, the seeds are used whole or ground in a variety of ethnic cuisines.
Botanical name: Trigonella foenum-graecum L.
Also known as Greek hay seed, or trigonella, fenugreek is a member of the Leguminosae, or pea and bean family. Fenugreek's Latin name Foenum graecum, means Greek hay; the ancients used it for hay, as well as food and medicine.
The fenugreek plant is an aromatic annual, approximately two feet in height, with cream colored, pea-like flowers that produce slender, four to six-inch pods. Each pod contains 10 to 20 small, hard, yellowish-brown, curved seeds with yellow interiors. The seeds contain vanilla-scented coumarin, and are high in mucilage (40%). The scent and taste of these seeds has been described as a combination of celery and maple, or a nutty flavored caramelized sugar--spicy, sweet, and slightly bitter all at once
Fenugreek is mentioned in a variety of ancient writings, like the papyri found in Egyptian tombs and the records of the Roman emperor, Charlemagne. In early Egypt, fenugreek functioned as a fodder crop, and as one of the ingredients in the incense which gave off the "holy smoke" used in embalming and purification ceremonies. Fenugreek was brought from Western Asia to Western Europe by Benedictine monks in the 9th century. In the Middle Ages it was popular in hair preparations, and in India, it's long been used to produce a yellow cloth dye.