(This column brings you information on various spices, fruits and vegetables, along with recipes and home remedies courtesy of Sahakari Spice Farm www.sahakarifarms.com. Readers are cautioned to use remedies with discretion)
Fenugreek, or methi as it is called in India, is known for its bitter yet flavourful taste. The leaves, which are green, slender and oblong or obovate, are used as a vegetable and as a herb. The aromatic, yellowish-brown seeds are utilised in cooking as a condiment and in making medicine. It is native to South Eastern Europe and West Asia. Sotolon, a powerful aroma compound, is responsible for the particular smell of fenugreek.
Its health benefits are many:
- Fenugreek seeds help reduce cholesterol levels, and especially slow down the absorption of LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein).
- The leaves and seeds of fenugreek are beneficial in lowering blood sugar levels in people suffering from Type 2 diabetes because of the presence of galactomannan, a soluble fibre that reduces the rate of sugar being absorbed into the blood stream. Fenugreek also has a unique amino acid which can induce insulin secretion.
- Since fenugreek is rich in potassium, it can control heart and blood pressure and consequently reduce the risk of a heart attack.
- Digestion related problems can be solved with fenugreek because of the fibre content, and antioxidants it contains can detoxify the digestive system. It provides relief from constipation.
- The mucilage in the seeds of fenugreek soothes the stomach and intestinal lining and acts as a remedy to acid reflux.
- Fenugreek seeds taken with lemon and honey or in tea can be effective against fever.
- Fenugreek can induce childbirth and is advisable for women who are in labour or close to it, as it can ease the process for the mother.
- It can increase lactation in women who are not producing an adequate amount of milk.
- One can combat skin problems such as acne, boils, abscesses, burns, eczema, gout, etc. with a poultice made from fenugreek seeds.
- It can help increase hair growth and get rid of dandruff if applied to the scalp.
- Chewing the seeds can give one the sensation of feeling full because of the soluble fibre in fenugreek. This helps prevent overeating and weight gain.
- Some people may be sensitive to fenugreek or, in case of overmedicating oneself with fenugreek, there may be diarrhoea, bloating and so on. People can experience nasal congestion, coughing, facial swelling, skin irritation and difficulty in breathing.
- During the course of pregnancy, fenugreek should be avoided as it can cause miscarriages. It can also cause birth defects in babies if consumed in excess.
- Avoid giving fenugreek to children in medicinal doses.
- Diabetics should constantly monitor their blood sugar levels to prevent hypoglycaemia while taking fenugreek.
Recipes by Sumedha Kotibhaskar
Goan Fried Fish (serves four)
Ingredients: ¼ kg kingfish, 100 gm of semolina or bread crumbs, 1 tbsp of turmeric powder, ½ tsp of tamarind powder, 1 tsp of chilli powder, 6 tbsp of sunflower or coconut oil and salt.
Preparation: Clean the fish, cut it into slices and apply a little salt to each of them. Prepare a mixture of semolina or bread crumbs, salt and turmeric powder, tamarind powder and chilli powder. Roll the slices of fish in the above mixture and fry it with oil.
Chicken Masala (serves four)
Ingredients: ½ kg of chicken pieces, 10 red chillies, 1 tbsp or coriander, 1 inch of cinnamon, 5 grains of black pepper, 5 cloves, ¼ tsp of mace powder, ¼ tsp nutmeg, ½ tsp of cumin seeds, 2 cardamom pods, 3-4 cups of grated coconut, 2 onions, 1 tsp of poppy seeds and salt to taste.
Preparation: Roast chillies, coriander seeds, cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, mace, nutmeg, cumin seeds, cardamom, and poppy seeds together. Chop one onion finely and fry it and the grated coconut in a frying pan. Make a paste of the two mixtures. Chop the other onion finely too and sauté it and add the chicken pieces, salt and water, and cook well. When the chicken is cooked add the paste of the two mixture and cook it for 10-15 minutes.
Asthma Syrup: Crush 4 cloves, 2 grains of pepper, half a tsp of basil seeds (or four leaves) and add to them two pinches of turmeric powder, a little ginger paste and sugar for taste. Mix the combination with two glasses of milk and boil it down to one glass of milk on a low flame. This will take approximately 40 minutes. Filter and drink when it has cooled. Repeat the process on the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th and 11th day (ie 6 times in 15 days). For children below 7 years of age use half the quantity.