Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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fenugreek Trigonella foenum-graecum, a leguminous plant related to clover, is native to S. Europe and Asia and is widely cultivated as a condiment crop. In classical times, it was much better known in Europe than it is now. It was then grown both as a fodder crop and for the supposed medicinal properties of its seeds. The botanical name for the species and most of the common European names mean ‘Greek hay’.

Fenugreek seeds, which are yellowish brown, are frequently used in India as a flavouring in curries. They need slow heating to bring out the full flavour, but overheating makes them bitter. Their aroma resembles that of celery. Since fenugreek is present and noticeable in most sorts of commercial curry powder, it constitutes, for many people in western countries, the specific aroma of curry.