Also spelled FOENUGREEK (species Trigonella foenum-graecum), slender annual herb of the pea family (Fabaceae) or its dried seeds, used as a food, a flavouring, and a medicine. The seeds' aroma and taste are strong, sweetish, and somewhat bitter, reminiscent of burnt sugar. They are farinaceous in texture and may be mixed with flour for bread or eaten raw or cooked. The herb is a characteristic ingredient in some curries and chutneys and is used to make imitation maple syrup. In India young fenugreek plants are used as a potherb. In northern Africa the plants are used for fodder. Traditionally considered an aid to digestion, the seeds have been used as an internal emollient for inflammation of the digestive tract and as an external poultice for boils and abscesses; but their present medical use is principally confined to the treatment of cows and horses.
Native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean region, the plant is cultivated in central and southeastern Europe, western Asia, India, and northern Africa. The plants are erect, loosely branched, less than 3 feet (1 m) tall with trifoliate, light green leaves and small white flowers. The slender pods are up to 6 inches (15 cm) long, curved and beaked, and contain yellow-brown seeds--flat rhomboids characterized by a deep furrow, less than 0.2 inch (1 cm) long. They contain the alkaloids trigonelline and choline and a yellow colouring matter.
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