Fenugreek, Trigonella foenum-graecum
, is an herbaceous annual plant in the family Fabaceae grown for its leaves and seeds which are used as a herb or spice. The fenugreek plant may have a single stem or may be branched at the stem base. The plant has an erect growth habit and a strong, sweet aroma. The leaves of the plant are small and trifoliate with oval leaflets which are green to purple in color. The plant produces solitary pale white or purplish flowers and a straight or occasionally curved yellow pod which houses the seeds. Between 10 and 20 seeds are produced per pod and they are small, smooth and brown, each divided into two lobes. Fenugreek can reach a height of 60 cm (23.6 in) and as an annual, survives only one growing season. The origin of fenugreek is unknown but it is indigenous to the western Mediterranean.
Fenugreek leaves can be used fresh or dried as a culinary herb. The seeds are used as a spice or flavoring.
Fenugreek is a sun-loving plant which is usually grown as a cool season crop. It grows optimally in well draining loams or sandy loams with a pH between 5.8 and 8.2. it will not grow well in heavy clay. Fenugreek is moderately drought resistant and can be grown in areas with low amounts of rainfall. In areas where the summer temperatures are high it is grown as a cool season crop but can be grown over summer in more temperate climates. The plants can withstand light frost.
Fenugreek is propagated from seed and it does not withstand transplanting. It should be direct seeded to a depth of 1–2 cm (0.4–0.8 in) allowing 7.5 cm (3 in) between individual plants and 20–45 cm (8–18 in) between rows. It may also be be spread by broadcasting.
General care and maintenance
The most important aspect of fenugreek cultivation is keeping the bed free from weeds. Beds should be weeded regularly to prevent competition with the developing plants. The plants will benefit from additional irrigation if rainfall is not adequate. In addition, productivity of fenugreek grown for seed will be increased with the addition of potash and phosphate fertilizer.
Fenugreek grown for seed is ready to harvest within 3 to 5 months after planting. The plants are harvested by uprooting and are then hung up to dry to allow seeds to be collected. In India, where the plant is grown as a vegetable crop, young shoots and leaves are harvested earlier and the plant is allowed to regrow before harvesting again.
CABI Crop Protection Compendium. (2008). Trigonella foenum-graecum datasheet. Available at: http://www.cabi.org/cpc/datasheet/54923
. [Accessed 03 December 14]. Paid subscription required
Simon, J. E., Chadwick, A. F. & Craker, L. E. (1984). Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate Zone. Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT. Available at: http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/me...
. [Accessed 03 December 14]. Free to access
Common Pests and Diseases
Cercospora leaf spot
Circular sunken lesions with chlorotic halos on leaves; necrotic areas on leaves; discolored areas on pods
Discoloration of vine at soil line; cankers on stem may spread upwards; leaves may wilt and drop from plant; numerous small black sclerota (fungal fruiting bodies) develop in affected tissues and can be used to diagnose the disease
Organic soil amendments such as the addition of manure or neemcake can be used to reduce levels of inocuum in the soil
White, powdery spots on leaves which expand over time; yellow spots may be visible on leaf underside
Avoid stressing plants by providing them with adequate irrigation and fertilizer; use adequate spacings when planting to avoid overcrowding
Aphids (Pea aphid, Cowpea aphid)
Small soft bodied insects on underside of leaves and/or stems of plant; usually green or yellow in color, but may be pink, brown, red or black depending on species and host plant; if aphid infestation is heavy it may cause leaves to yellow and/or distorted, necrotic spots on leaves and/or stunted shoots; aphids secrete a sticky, sugary substance called honeydew which encourages the growth of sooty mold on the plants
If aphid population is limited to just a few leaves or shoots then the infestation can be pruned out to provide control; check transplants for aphids before planting; use tolerant varieties if available; reflective mulches such as silver colored plastic can deter aphids from feeding on plants; sturdy plants can be sprayed with a strong jet of water to knock aphids from leaves; insecticides are generally only required to treat aphids if the infestation is very high - plants generally tolerate low and medium level infestation; insecticidal soaps or oils such as neem or canola oil are usually the best method of control; always check the labels of the products for specific usage guidelines prior to use