Fenugreek's history goes back to the ancient world where the Egyptians used to stuff the dead. The Greeks and Romans used it as feed for their cattle which is where the name came from meaning Greek hay.
Its characteristics are that it grow up to a metre in height with light green leaves and small white flowers and is an annual which means it has to be grown fresh from seed each year. The seeds are small and flat and very aromatic with a bitter taste. Although native to the Mediterranean and western Asia regions it is now cultivated around the world and still grown as animal feed in many area.
Prior to being cooked fenugreek seeds are not pleasant giving a very bitter taste. To get rid of this the seeds need to be roasted and then ground to reduce this harsh bitterness. Fenugreek seed extract is used in rum flavorings and is the main flavour in imitation maple syrup. The herb is used in breads in north Africa and the ground seeds, can transform bland vegetarian dishes. Also good in marinades.
Young shoots of fenugreek with other green leaved salads such as lettuce and watercress provide a lovely salad treat. The seeds are also used in many baked produce, ice cream and even chewing gum and soft drinks. Little is know about the fact that the seeds can be used as a coffee substitute if roasted and ground.
Fenugreek used to be used as a yellow dye but that seems to have died out in recent years. The leaves can be dried out and used as an insect repellent.
If ground and turned into a paste by adding sugar and oil this has been used by women to gain weight fast in regions where fat women are valued more than thin. There is a strong connection between fenugreek seeds and the production of steroids in turn this can be used for the treatment of sex hormones with many medicines connected with this in veterinary practices and genre.
In modern times some of the traditional uses of fenugreek have disappeared, but one area, which is more popular than ever is that it aids natural breast enhancement. This undoubtedly is the new fashion and will no doubt gain more recognition as more natural sources of treatment for this are looked into. In less terms of vanity, it has been found that it not be taken during pregnancy as encourages menstruation, but postnatal, it is a well know safe way to stimulate the flow of breast milk.
Finally, some advice on storage. The seeds should be stored in a cool, dry place and best to be used before they reach 6 months.