Fenugreek is a slender annual herb of the pea family (Fabaceae). It was used by the ancient Egyptians and is mentioned in medical writings in their tombs. The Romans grew it as fodder for their cattles. Historically, the main usage of fenugreek was medicinal rather than as a labour. The botanical name trigonella refers to the angular seeds and foenum graecum translates as 'Greek hay', which explains its use as cattle feeds.
The herb is a characteristic ingredient in some curries and chutneys and the fenugreek extract is used to make imitation maple syrup. Because of its high nutritive contents, it is an important ingredient in vegetable and dhal dishes eaten in India. In India, young fenugreek plants are used as a pot herb. The leaves are widely used, fresh or dried, in Indian cooking and are often combined with vegetables. Fenugreek seeds are used in a wide range of home-made or commercial curry powders. In northern Africa the plants are used for fodder.
Fenugreek should be treated as a hardy annual. Seed in early November in light, well-drained soil. Trials conducted at the University of Saskatchewan showed that a density of about 18 plants per metre of row resulted in reasonable yields. Seeding rates range from 24 to 37 lb/ac (27 - 40 kg/ha). Seed will germinate in 2 days and emerge in 7 days when seeded 0.8 to 1.6 in (2 - 4 cm) deep. Seed is harvested in a manner similar to alfalfa seed. The plants can be left in the field until dry- down, usually after a severe frost, and then direct combined.
It is either sown in spring or autumn according to climate. In Punjab (India) it has been used as a summer catch-crop fodder or green manure, ripening in 2.5 - 3 months. Seed rates vary widely from 10 to 40 kg/ha, the lower rates being for rainfed crops. Hard-seededness is not a problem, nor is seed production since fenugreek has been grown for its seeds as well as fodder since Antiquity.