Saturday, February 18, 2012

Mushroom Cultivation

A mushroom is the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground on soil or on its food source. The standard for the name "mushroom" is the cultivated white button mushroom, Agaricus bisporus; hence the word "mushroom" is most often applied to those fungi (Basidiomycota, Agaricomycetes) that have a stem (stipe), a cap (pileus), and gills (lamellae, sing. lamella) or pores on the underside of the cap.

"Mushroom" describes a variety of gilled fungi, with or without stems, and the term is used even more generally, to describe both the fleshy fruiting bodies of some Ascomycota and the woody or leathery fruiting bodies of some Basidiomycota, depending upon the context of the word.

Forms deviating from the standard morphology usually have more specific names, such as "puffball", "stinkhorn", and "morel", and gilled mushrooms themselves are often called "agarics" in reference to their similarity to Agaricus or their place Agaricales. By extension, the term "mushroom" can also designate the entire fungus when in culture; the thallus (called a mycelium) of species forming the fruiting bodies called mushrooms; or the species itself.


Identifying mushrooms requires a basic understanding of their macroscopic structure. Most are Basidiomycetes and gilled. Their spores, called basidiospores, are produced on the gills and fall in a fine rain of powder from under the caps as a result. At the microscopic level the basidiospores are shot off basidia and then fall between the gills in the dead air space. As a result, for most mushrooms, if the cap is cut off and placed gill-side-down overnight, a powdery impression reflecting the shape of the gills (or pores, or spines, etc.) is formed (when the fruit body is sporulating). The color of the powdery print, called a spore print, is used to help classify mushrooms and can help to identify them. Spore print colors include white (most common), brown, black, purple-brown, pink, yellow, and cream, but almost never blue, green, or red.

While modern identification of mushrooms is quickly becoming molecular, the standard methods for identification are still used by most and have developed into a fine art harking back to medieval times and the Victorian era, combined with microscopic examination. The presence of juices upon breaking, bruising reactions, odors, tastes, shades of color, habitat, habit, and season are all considered by both amateur and professional mycologists. Tasting and smelling mushrooms carries its own hazards because of poisons and allergens. Chemical tests are also used for some genera.

In general, identification to genus can often be accomplished in the field using a local mushroom guide. Identification to species, however, requires more effort; one must remember that a mushroom develops from a button stage into a mature structure, and only the latter can provide certain characteristics needed for the identification of the species. However, over-mature specimens lose features and cease producing spores. Many novices have mistaken humid water marks on paper for white spore prints, or discolored paper from oozing liquids on lamella edges for colored spored prints.


Typical mushrooms are the fruit bodies of members of the order Agaricales, whose type genus is Agaricus and type species is the field mushroom, Agaricus campestris. However, in modern molecularly-defined classifications, not all members of the order Agaricales produce mushroom fruit bodies, and many other gilled fungi, collectively called mushrooms, occur in other orders of the class Agaricomycetes. For example, chanterelles are in the Cantharellales, false chanterelles like Gomphus are in the Gomphales, milk mushrooms (Lactarius) and russulas (Russula) as well as Lentinellus are in the Russulales, while the tough leathery genera Lentinus and Panus are among the Polyporales, but Neolentinus is in the Gloeophyllales, and the little pin-mushroom genus, Rickenella, along with similar genera, are in the Hymenochaetales.

Within the main body of mushrooms, in the Agaricales, are common fungi like the common fairy-ring mushroom (Marasmius oreades), shiitake, enoki, oyster mushrooms, fly agarics, and other amanitas, magic mushrooms like species of Psilocybe, paddy straw mushrooms, shaggy manes, etc.

An atypical mushroom is the lobster mushroom, which is a deformed, cooked-lobster-colored parasitized fruitbody of a Russula or Lactarius, colored and deformed by the mycoparasitic Ascomycete Hypomyces lactifluorum.

Other mushrooms are not gilled and then the term "mushroom" is loosely used, so it is difficult to give a full account of their classifications. Some have pores underneath (and are usually called boletes), others have spines, such as the hedgehog mushroom and other tooth fungi, and so on. "Mushroom" has been used for polypores, puffballs, jelly fungi, coral fungi, bracket fungi, stinkhorns, and cup fungi. Thus, the term is more one of common application to macroscopic fungal fruiting bodies than one having precise taxonomic meaning. There are approximately 14,000 described species of mushrooms.


The terms "mushroom" and "toadstool" go back centuries and were never precisely defined, nor was there consensus on application. The term "toadstool" was often, but not exclusively, applied to poisonous mushrooms or to those that have the classic umbrella-like cap-and-stem form. Between 1400 and 1600 AD, the terms tadstoles, frogstooles, frogge stoles, tadstooles, tode stoles, toodys hatte, paddockstool, puddockstool, paddocstol, toadstoole, and paddockstooles sometimes were used synonymously with mushrom, mushrum, muscheron, mousheroms, mussheron, or musserouns.
The word has apparent analogies in Dutch padde(n)stoel (toad-stool/chair, mushroom) and German Krötenschwamm (toad-fungus, alt. word for panther cap). Others have proposed a connection with German "Todesstuhl" (lit. "death's chair"). Since Tod is a direct cognate to death, in that case it would be a German borrowing. However, there is no common word akin to "Todesstuhl" used in German referring to mushrooms, poisonous or not.

In german folklore and old fairy tales there are many depictions of toads sitting on Toadstool mushrooms and catching, with their tongues, the flies that are said to be drawn to the "Fliegenpilz". ("Fliegenpilz" being a german name for the Toadstool, meaning "Flies' mushroom") This is how the mushroom got another of its names, "Krötenstuhl" (a less used german name for the mushroom.), literally translating to "toad-stool"

The term "mushroom" and its variations may have been derived from the French word mousseron in reference to moss (mousse). The toadstool's connection to toads may be direct, in reference to some species of poisonous toad, or may just be a case of phono-semantic matching from the German word. However, there is no clear-cut delineation between edible and poisonous fungi, so that a "mushroom" may be edible, poisonous, or unpalatable. The term "toadstool" is nowadays used in storytelling when referring to poisonous or suspect mushrooms. The classic example of a toadstool is Amanita muscaria.

Cultural or social phobias of mushrooms and fungi may be related. The term fungophobia was coined by William Delisle Hay of England who noted a national superstition or fear of "toadstools." He described the "fungus-hunter" as being contemptible and detailed the larger demographic's attitude toward mushrooms as "abnormal, worthless, or inexplicable." Fungophobia spread to the United States and Australia where it was inherited from England. The underlying cause of a cultural fungaphobia may also be related to the exaggerated importance placed on the few deadly and poisonous mushrooms found in the region of that culture.


A mushroom develops from a nodule, or pinhead, less than two millimeters in diameter, called a primordium, which is typically found on or near the surface of the substrate. It is formed within the mycelium, the mass of threadlike hyphae that make up the fungus. The primordium enlarges into a roundish structure of interwoven hyphae roughly resembling an egg, called a "button". The button has a cottony roll of mycelium, the universal veil, that surrounds the developing fruit body. As the egg expands, the universal veil ruptures and may remain as a cup, or volva, at the base of the stalk, or as warts or volval patches on the cap. Many mushrooms lack a universal veil and therefore do not have either a volva or volval patches. Often there is a second layer of tissue, the partial veil, covering the bladelike gills that bear spores. As the cap expands, the veil breaks, and remnants of the partial veil may remain as a ring, or annulus, around the middle of the stalk or as fragments hanging from the margin of the cap. The ring may be skirt-like as in some species of Amanita, collar-like as in many species of Lepiota, or merely the faint remnants of a cortina (a partial veil composed of filaments resembling a spiderweb), which is typical of the genus Cortinarius. Mushrooms that lack a partial veil do not form an annulus.

The stalk (also called the stipe, or stem) may be central and support the cap in the middle, or it may be off-center and/or lateral, as in species of Pleurotus and Panus. In other mushrooms, a stalk may be absent, as in the polypores that form shelf-like brackets. Puffballs lack a stalk but may have a supporting base. Other mushrooms, like truffles, jellies, earthstars, bird's nests, usually do not have stalks, and a specialized mycological vocabulary exists to describe their parts.

The way that gills attach to the top of the stalk is an important feature of mushroom morphology. Mushrooms in the genera Agaricus, Amanita, Lepiota and Pluteus, among others, have free gills that do not extend to the top of the stalk. Others have decurrent gills that extend down the stalk, as in the genera Omphalotus and Pleurotus. There are a great number of variations between the extremes of free and decurrent, collectively called attached gills. Finer distinctions are often made to distinguish the types of attached gills: adnate gills, which adjoin squarely to the stalk; notched gills, which are notched where they join the top of the stalk; adnexed gills, which curve upward to meet the stalk, and so on. These distinctions between attached gills are sometimes difficult to interpret, since gill attachment may change as the mushroom matures, or with different environmental conditions.

Microscopic features

A hymenium is a layer of microscopic spore-bearing cells that covers the surface of gills. In the non-gilled mushrooms, the hymenium lines the inner surfaces of the tubes of boletes and polypores, or covers the teeth of spine fungi and the branches of corals. In the Ascomycota, spores develop within a microscopic elongated, saclike cell called an ascus, which typically contains eight spores. The Discomycetes—which contains the cup, sponge, brain, and some club-like fungi—develop an exposed layer of asci, as on the inner surface of cup fungi or within the pits of morels. The Pyrenomycetes, tiny dark-colored fungi that live on a wide range of substrates including soil, dung, leaf litter, decaying wood, as well as other fungi, produce minute flask-shaped structures called perithecia, within which the asci develop.

In the Basidiomycetes, usually four spores develop on the tips of thin projections called sterigmata, which extend from a club-shaped cell called a basidium. The fertile portion of the Gasteromycetes, called a gleba, may become powdery as in the puffballs or slimy as in the stinkhorns. Interspersed among the asci are threadlike sterile cells called paraphyses. Similar structures called cystidia often occur within the hymenium of the Basidiomycota. Many types of cystidia exist and assessing their presence, shape, and size is often used to verify the identification of a mushroom.

The most important microscopic feature for identification of mushrooms is the spores themselves. Their color, shape, size, attachment, ornamentation, and reaction to chemical tests often can be the crux of an identification. Spores often have a protrusion at one end, called an apiculus, which is the point of attachment to the basidium, termed the apical germ pore, from which the hypha emerges when the spore germinates.


Many species of mushrooms seemingly appear overnight, growing or expanding rapidly. This phenomenon is the source of several common expressions in the English language including "to mushroom" or "mushrooming" (expanding rapidly in size or scope) and "to pop up like a mushroom" (to appear unexpectedly and quickly). In reality all species of mushrooms take several days to form primordial mushroom fruit bodies, though they do expand rapidly by the absorption of fluids.

The cultivated mushroom as well as the common field mushroom initially form a minute fruiting body, referred to as the pin stage because of their small size. Slightly expanded they are called buttons, once again because of the relative size and shape. Once such stages are formed, the mushroom can rapidly pull in water from its mycelium and expand, mainly by inflating preformed cells that took several days to form in the primordia.

Similarly, there are even more ephemeral mushrooms, like Parasola plicatilis (formerly Coprinus plicatlis), that literally appear overnight and may disappear by late afternoon on a hot day after rainfall.The primordia form at ground level in lawns in humid spaces under the thatch and after heavy rainfall or in dewy conditions balloon to full size in a few hours, release spores, and then collapse. They "mushroom" to full size.

Not all mushrooms expand overnight; some grow very slowly and add tissue to their fruitbodies by growing from the edges of the colony or by inserting hyphae. For example Pleurotus nebrodensis grows slowly, and because of this combined with human collection, it is now critically endangered.

Yellow, flower pot mushrooms (Leucocoprinus birnbaumii) at various states of development

Though mushroom fruiting bodies are short-lived, the underlying mycelium can itself be long-lived and massive. A colony of Armillaria solidipes (formerly known as Armillaria ostoyae) in Malheur National Forest in the United States is estimated to be 2,400 years old, possibly older, and spans an estimated 2,200 acres (8.9 km2). Most of the fungus is underground and in decaying wood or dying tree roots in the form of white mycelia combined with black shoelace-like rhizomorphs that bridge colonized separated woody substrates.


Mushrooms are a low-calorie food usually eaten raw or cooked to provide garnish to a meal. Raw dietary mushrooms are a good source of B vitamins, such as riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid, and the essential minerals, selenium, copper and potassium. Fat, carbohydrate and calorie content are low, with absence of vitamin C and sodium (table, right).

When exposed to ultraviolet light, natural ergosterols in mushrooms produce vitamin D2, a process now exploited for the functional food retail market.

Human use

Edible mushrooms

Known as the meat of the vegetable world, edible mushrooms are used extensively in cooking, in many cuisines (notably Chinese, Korean, European, and Japanese).

Most mushrooms that are sold in supermarkets have been commercially grown on mushroom farms. The most popular of these, Agaricus bisporus, is considered safe for most people to eat because it is grown in controlled, sterilized environments. Several varieties of A. bisporus are grown commercially, including whites, crimini, and portobello. Other cultivated species now available at many grocers include shiitake, maitake or hen-of-the-woods, oyster, and enoki. In recent years increasing affluence in developing countries has led to a considerable growth in interest in mushroom cultivation, which is now seen as a potentially important economic activity for small farmers.

There are a number of species of mushroom that are poisonous and, although some resemble certain edible species, consuming them could be fatal. Eating mushrooms gathered in the wild is risky and should not be undertaken by individuals not knowledgeable in mushroom identification, unless the individuals limit themselves to a relatively small number of good edible species that are visually distinctive. A. bisporus contains carcinogens called hydrazines, the most abundant of which is agaritine. However, the carcinogens are destroyed by moderate heat when cooking.

More generally, and particularly with gilled mushrooms, separating edible from poisonous species requires meticulous attention to detail; there is no single trait by which all toxic mushrooms can be identified, nor one by which all edible mushrooms can be identified. Additionally, even edible mushrooms may produce an allergic reaction in susceptible individuals, from a mild asthmatic response to severe anaphylactic shock.

People who collect mushrooms for consumption are known as mycophagists,and the act of collecting them for such is known as mushroom hunting, or simply "mushrooming".

China is the world's largest edible mushroom producer. The country produces about half of all cultivated mushrooms, and around 2.7 kilograms (6.0 lb) of mushrooms are consumed per person per year by over a billion people.

Toxic mushrooms

Many mushroom species produce secondary metabolites that can be toxic, mind-altering, antibiotic, antiviral, or bioluminescent. Although there are only a small number of deadly species, several others can cause particularly severe and unpleasant symptoms. Toxicity likely plays a role in protecting the function of the basidiocarp: the mycelium has expended considerable energy and protoplasmic material to develop a structure to efficiently distribute its spores. One defense against consumption and premature destruction is the evolution of chemicals that render the mushroom inedible, either causing the consumer to vomit the meal (see emetics), or to learn to avoid consumption altogether. In addition, due to the ability of mushrooms to absorb heavy metals, including those that are radioactive, European mushrooms may, to date, include toxicity from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and continue to be studied.

Psychoactive mushrooms

Mushrooms that have psychoactive properties have long played a role in various native medicine traditions in cultures all around the world. They have been used as sacrament in rituals aimed at mental and physical healing, and to facilitate visionary states. One such ritual is the velada ceremony. A practitioner of traditional mushroom use is the shaman and curandera (priest-healer).

Psilocybin mushrooms possess psychedelic properties. Commonly known as "magic mushrooms" or "shrooms," they are openly available in smart shops in many parts of the world, or on the black market in those countries that have outlawed their sale. Psilocybin mushrooms have been reported as facilitating profound and life-changing insights often described as mystical experiences. Recent scientific work has supported these claims, as well as the long-lasting effects of such induced spiritual experiences.

Psilocybin, a naturally occurring chemical in certain psychedelic mushrooms like Psilocybe cubensis, is being studied for its ability to help people suffering from psychological disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder. Minute amounts have been reported to stop cluster and migraine headaches. A double-blind study, done by the Johns Hopkins Hospital, showed that psychedelic mushrooms could provide people an experience with substantial personal meaning and spiritual significance. In the study, one third of the subjects reported that ingestion of psychedelic mushrooms was the single most spiritually significant event of their lives. Over two-thirds reported it among their five most meaningful and spiritually significant events. On the other hand, one-third of the subjects reported extreme anxiety. However, the anxiety went away after a short period of time.

Amanita muscaria pictured above is also psychoactive. The active constituents are ibotenic acid and muscimol. The Muscaria chemotaxonomic group of Amanitas contain no amatoxins or phallotoxins, and are not hepatoxic.

Medicinal mushrooms

Medicinal mushrooms are mushrooms or extracts from mushrooms that are used or studied as possible treatments for diseases. Some mushroom materials, including polysaccharides, glycoproteins and proteoglycans, modulate immune system responses and inhibit tumor growth. Some medicinal mushroom isolates that have been identified also show cardiovascular, antiviral, antibacterial, antiparasitic, anti-inflammatory, and antidiabetic properties. Currently, several extracts have widespread use in Japan, Korea and China, as adjuncts to radiation treatments and chemotherapy.

Historically, mushrooms have long had medicinal uses, especially in traditional Chinese medicine. Mushrooms have been a subject of modern medical research since the 1960s, where most modern medical studies concern the use of mushroom extracts, rather than whole mushrooms. Only a few specific mushroom extracts have been extensively tested for efficacy. Polysaccharide-K and lentinan are among the mushroom extracts with the firmest evidence. The available results for most other extracts are based on in vitro data, effects on isolated cells in a lab dish, animal models like mice, or underpowered clinical human trials. Studies show that glucan-containing mushroom extracts primarily change the function of the innate and adaptive immune systems, functioning as bioresponse modulators, rather than by directly killing bacteria, viruses, or cancer cells as cytocidal agents. In some countries, extracts like polysaccharide-K, schizophyllan, polysaccharide peptide, and lentinan are government-registered adjuvant cancer therapies.

Other uses

Mushrooms can be used for dyeing wool and other natural fibers. The chromophores of mushroom dyes are organic compounds and produce strong and vivid colors, and all colors of the spectrum can be achieved with mushroom dyes. Before the invention of synthetic dyes mushrooms were the source of many textile dyes.

Some fungi, types of polypores loosely called mushrooms, have been used as fire starters (known as tinder fungi).

Mushrooms are currently being employed by Ecovative Design LLC to make biodegradable packaging that can directly replace petroleum-based expanded polystyrene packaging.

Mushrooms and other fungi play a role in the development of new biological remediation techniques (e.g., using mycorrhizae to spur plant growth) and filtration technologies (e.g. using fungi to lower bacteria levels in contaminated water). The US Patent and Trademark Office can be searched for patents related to the latest developments in mycoremediation and mycofiltration.

How to Grow Mushrooms From Tissue Culture

Mushrooms can be cloned by taking a tissue culture and growing it in a sterile media made of potato dextrose agar solution, which provides the neccessary nutrients for the tissue culture to grow. A tissue culture requires that a sterile piece of the inside of the mushroom be taken from a host mushroom. The process is similar to taking a cutting from a shrub and rooting it. The tissue culture will grow mushrooms identical to the parent. 

Prepare Agar Gel

Slice unpeeled potatoes, place in the pot, cover with water and cook on medium high heat until the potatoes are tender.

Strain and place liquid from the potatoes in the Pyrex bowl. Mix in 1 oz. of agar and 2 tbsp. of sugar, using the fork. Add 1 qt. of water to the mixture.

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Press a sheet of tin foil onto the Pyrex bowl to protect the contents. Add 1 cup of water to the pressure cooker. Put the bowl of agar mixture into the pressure cooker and assemble the lid. Cook on medium heat for 20 minutes at 15 psi. Start the timer when the pressure cooker reaches 15 psi. Allow the pressure cooker to cool for an hour before opening.
Fill Test Tubes

Arrange clean tuna and soup cans in a row as they will hold the test tubes at an angle. Pour the agar mixture into the measuring cup and fill the test tubes one-third full with the agar mixture. Apply caps loosely or use foil to cover the ends of the test tubes. Place three filled test tubes in each soup can. Add 1 cup of water to the pressure cooker. Place the cans with the test tubes into the pressure cooker, then secure the lid.

Sterilize the test tubes in the pressure cooker at 15 psi for 25 minutes. Start the timer when the pressure cooker reaches 15 psi. Allow the pressure cooker to cool on the stovetop for an hour.

Open the pressure cooker and remove the hot test tubes carefully, using oven mitts and place three test tubes in each tuna can to hold them at the correct slant to cool. Tighten the caps after the agar has cooled and turned into a gel. Cover each can of test tubes with tin foil to keep out dust.
Prepare Mushroom Sample

Spray the kitchen counter with bleach diluted in water and wipe with paper towels. Work in the morning to avoid a draft and airborne dust. Work fast for the remaining steps.

Arrange the test tubes on the clean table along with the X-Acto knife, mushrooms, lighted alcohol lamp and the fourth tin can that will be used to hold the flame-sterilized X-Acto knife blade near the flame of the alcohol lamp.

Open a test tube carefully and place it between the middle and ring finger of your left hand if you are right-handed. Hold the cap between your pinkie and ring finger.

Break the mushroom in half and do not let the cut side touch the table. Place the X-Acto knife blade into the flame, then cut a small piece of the inside mushroom flesh and place it into the test tube. Replace the cap quickly and place the test tube with the newly created tissue culture back with the rest. Keep the X-Acto knife blade near the flame when not in use. Repeat for the eight remaining test tubes.

Place masking tape around the bottom of the lid and record the date and variety on it, using the Sharpie marker. Keep prepared test tubes in a dark room at temperatures between 55 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit for mycelia to grow.
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Tips & Warnings

Before using, sanitize the measuring cup, knife and fork in a dishwasher. A sanitized work area and instruments will reduce contamination from other types of spores.

To avoid contamination, do not allow the cut side of the mushroom to touch anything but the flamed X-Acto knife blade and the test tube

Always allow the pressure cooker to cool slowly to avoid foaming agar solutions.

Do not work on a windy day as airborne spores can contaminate the tissue culture.

Work fast when cutting mushroom tissue, or airborne contaminants can ruin a culture.
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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Methi(Fenugreek) Cultivation

Scientific classification
Kingdom              : Plantae
(unranked)           : Angiosperms
(unranked)           : Eudicots
(unranked)           : Rosids
Order                  : Fabales
Family                 : Fabaceae
Genus                 : Trigonella
Species               : T. foenum-graecum
Binomial name     : Trigonella foenum-graecum

Fenugreek (  Trigonella foenum-graecum) is a plant in the family Fabaceae. Fenugreek is used both as a herb (the leaves) and as a spice (the seed, often called methi in Urdu/Hindi/Nepali). The leaves and sprouts

are also eaten as vegetables.Fenugreek is native to the Mediterranean countries and Asia and is undoubtedly one of the oldest cultivated medicinal plants. The plant is cultivated worldwide as a semi-arid crop and is a common ingredient in many curries.

Other Common Names:
Greek hay, Greek hay seed, bird's foot, fenigreek, Greek clover, methi, foenugreek and hu lu ba.


Fenugreek is an annual herb with trifoliate leaves and it can grow to be about two feet tall. It blooms white flowers tinged with violet in the early summer. The flowers develop into long brown pods which contain the fenugreek seeds. The seeds give away strong special aroma.


The name fenugreek or foenum-graecum is from Latin for "Greek hay". The plant's similarity to wild clover has likely spawned its Swedish name: "bockhornsklöver" as well as the German: "Bockshornklee", both literally meaning: "ram's horn clover".

It is not yet certain which wild strain of the genus Trigonella gave rise to the domesticated fenugreek but believe it was brought into cultivation in the Near East. Charred fenugreek seeds

have been recovered from Tell Halal, Iraq, (radiocarbon dating to 4000 BC) and Bronze Age levels of Lachish, as well as desiccated seeds from the tomb of Tutankhamen. Cato the Elder lists fenugreek with clover and vetch as crops grown to feed cattle .


Major fenugreek producing countries are Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Argentina, Egypt, France, Spain, Turkey, Morocco and China. India is the largest producer of fenugreek in the world where Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Haryana and Punjab are the major
fenugreek producing states. Rajasthan produces the lion's share of India's production, accounting for over 80% of the nation's total fenugreek output. Qasuri Methi, more popular for its appetizing fragrance, comes from Qasur, Pakistan, and regions irrigated by the Sutlej River, in the Indian and Pakistani states of Punjab.



The cuboid yellow to amber coloured fenugreek seeds are frequently used in the preparation of pickles, curry powders, and curry paste, and the spice is often encountered in the cuisine of the Indian subcontinent. The dried leaves – also called kasuri methi (or kasoori methi in India and Pakistan), after the region of Kasur in Punjab, Pakistan province, where it grows abundantly – have a bitter taste and a characteristically strong smell. When harvested as microgreens, it also known as Samudra Methi, in Maharashtra, especially in and around Mumbai, Menthium or Venthayam in Tamil, where it is often grown near the sea in the sandy tracts, hence the name (Samudra means "ocean" in Sanskrit).

Fenugreek is used in Eritrean and Ethiopian cuisine. The word for fenugreek in Amharic is abesh (or abish), and the seed is used in Ethiopia as a natural herbal medicine in the treatment of diabetes.

Yemenite Jews, following interpetaion of Rabbi Salomon Isaacides, Rashi of Talmūd , believe Fenugreek, which they call Helba  is the Talmudic Rubia . They use Fenugreek to produce Hilba, a foamy sauce reminiscent of curry, consumed daily but ceremoniously during the meal of the first and/or second night of Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year).


Fenugreek seeds are thought to be a galactagogue that is often used to increase milk supply in lactating women.


Arthritis has a low incidence rate in India where a lot of fenugreek is consumed. Drinking 1 cup of fenugreek tea per day, made from the leaves, is said to relieve the discomfort of arthritis.

A June 2011 study at the Australian Centre for Integrative Clinical and Molecular Medicine found that men aged 25 to 52 who took a fenugreek extract twice daily for six weeks scored 25% higher on tests gauging libido levels than those who took a placebo.
Fenugreek Therapeutic Uses, Benefits and Claims

Recent scientific research has found that fenugreek can help reduce cholesterol in the blood.
It is used to treat diabetes in adults.
It can be helpful as a herbal remedy to minimize the symptoms of menopause and it is thought to be helpful for painful PMS.

Fenugreek has been used for loss of appetite and anorexia. It can improve digestion, treat halitosis and relieve diarrhea and minor stomach aches.

The Herb Fenugreek
(Trigonella foenum-graecum

It has a reputation for enlarging breast tissue and is widely used in natural breast enhancement products. Fenugreek seeds contain compounds like diosgenin and other plant phyto-estrogens which are thought to promote breast growth in women. However there is no scientific proof that can confirm that fenugreek can enlarge breast tissue and more studies are needed.

Fenugreek seeds contain hormone precursors that can increase milk production in nursing mothers and it is widely used for insufficient lactation.

Because of the high mucilage content found in the fenugreek seeds it is considered a useful herb for diarrhea. The seeds husks absorb water resulting in bulkier stool.

It has been used through the ages to increase sexual desire both in men and women and has been used for premature ejaculation.

The seeds of fenugreek contain choline which may be helpful for memory loss and to slow down the aging process.

Is has been used to treat bronchitis and asthma. It is also considered a good herbal remedy for sore throat and coughs.

It has been used as an herb to promote hair growth both in women and men.
Fenugreek has been used for skin irritation, such as ulcers, boils, eczema, dandruff and cellulite.

Potential Side Effects of Fenugreek Seeds

Fenugreek seeds have been known to cause allergic reaction. It is not very common but if you experience allergic reaction such as swelling of the face, lips or tongue then seek medical attention. Fenugreek can change both color and smell of urine but is not harmful.

Pregnant women should not take fenugreek in any form. Because of the high fiber content of fenugreek, it should be used carefully with any kind of medication as it can affect the absorption of other drugs. It is always a good idea to consult health professional before start using any herbs.


Fenugreek seeds are a rich source of the polysaccharide galactomannan. They are also a source of saponins such as diosgenin, yamogenin, gitogenin, tigogenin, and neotigogens. Other bioactive constituents of fenugreek include mucilage, volatile oils, and alkaloids such as choline and trigonelline.

Fenugreek seeds are used as a medicinal in Traditional Chinese Medicine under the name Hu Lu Ba (Traditional Chinese: , Simplified Chinese: , Pinyin: hú lú bā), where they are considered to warm and tonify kidneys, disperse cold and alleviate pain. Main indications are hernia, pain in the groin. They are used raw or toasted. In India about 2-3g of raw fenugreek seeds (called Methi in India) are swallowed raw early in the morning with warm water, before brushing the teeth and before drinking tea or coffee, where they are supposed to have a therapeutic and healing effect on joint pains, without any side effects.

In Persian cuisine Fenugreek leaves are used and called  (shambalile). In Arabic traditional medicine, it is known as  (Helba or Hulba). Tea made from the seeds is used in the Near East to treat various kidney, heart, abdominal illnesses and Diabetes. Seeds are used by Bedouin women to strengthen pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Fenugreek is frequently used in the production of flavoring for artificial maple syrups. The taste of toasted fenugreek, like cumin, is additionally based on substituted pyrazines. By itself, fenugreek has a bitter taste.

Fenugreek seed is widely used as a galactagogue (milk producing agent) by nursing mothers to increase inadequate breast milk supply. Studies have shown that fenugreek is a potent stimulator of breast milk production and its use was associated with increases in milk production. It can be found in capsule form in many health food stores.

Several human intervention trials demonstrated that the antidiabetic effects of fenugreek seeds ameliorate most metabolic symptoms associated with type-1 and type-2 diabetes in both humans and relevant animal models by reducing serum glucose and improving glucose tolerance. Fenugreek is currently available commercially in encapsulated forms and is being prescribed as dietary supplements for the control of hypercholesterolemia and diabetes by practitioners of complementary and alternative medicine. Fenugreek contains high dietary fiber, so a few seeds taken with warm water before going to sleep helps avoiding constipation.

Fenugreek seeds imported from Egypt in 2009 and 2010 have been linked to outbreaks of Escherichia coli O104:H4 in Germany and France, causing 50 deaths in 2011.

About Fenugreek

If this spice had a less cumbersome name--say methi, its common commercial name (and what it's called in India)--it might be better known and more popular in the Western world; as it is, it's a rare curiosity, which is a shame.

Fenugreek is grown primarily (but more anon) for its seeds, which are lightly roasted before use in cooking. It is mainly an Indian spice, much used in curries, but its use extends to the eastern Mediterranean areas, where it turns up in Egyptian and Greek dishes. It is always used lightly roasted--roasting brings out its characteristic somewhat bitter taste, which is always an accent or background taste where this spice is called for, but over-roasting makes it too bitter. There is no doubt that if it were better known in the West, many and many a use for it could be found by inventive cooks, as numerous posts to the internet demonstrate. (A flavor resemblance sometimes mentioned with fenugreek is maple, as in maple syrup, which we have noted ourselves--it is even used to make imitation maple syrups.)

Fenugreek also has beneficial effects in reducing the effective glycemic index of other foods, and even in lowering cholesterol.

Fenugreek  seeds are sown in boxes [planters] and grown to the two-leaf (cotyledon) stage like mustard and cress, it makes a five-star salad when dressed with oil and vinegar. The taste is refreshing, new and unusual.


It must prove something that there are numerous well-known cultivars of fenugreek in use in the extensive commercial trade, but no named varieties whatever (that we could find) in the home-garden seed catalogues; few enough carry even a generic "fenugreek".

Planting Timing

Fenugreek likes warmth: its growth is slow and weak in cold temperatures or wet soils. Since it supposedly bolts to seed quickly and easily, we might as well plant it out when the weather has gotten good and warm.

The Bed

The general rule for herb and spice plants is that their soil needs are not demanding, save that the soil must be very well-drained: few herb or spice plants can stand "wet feet". The soil should not be particularly rich, most especially not for flavoring plants we grow for their seed (or fruit), common mis-advice to the contrary notwithstanding: a rich soil will lower the concentration of the "aromatic oils" that give the seed its characteristic flavor, which is the very thing we are growing them for. Plants that are slightly nutrient-stressed (which doesn't mean starved) give better-tasting seed.

Planting Out

Curiously, fenugreek is a legume; it will thus enrich the soil where it is grown, but that also means it's wise to use inoculant (of the usual pean-and-bean sort) on it when seeding.

Plant seed where the plants are to grow; seed about 3/4" deep. Some sources recommend pre-soaking the seeds in warm water for half a day or so. Spacing is unclear, but apparently it is usually grown closely--at 2 to 4 inches apart.


The seeds--brownish, about 1/8 inch long, oblong, rhomboidal, with a deep furrow dividing them into two unequal lobes--are contained, 10 to 20 together, in long, narrow, sickle-like pods, which do not naturally shatter. Fenugreek plants may thus be left to dry down, then harvested. The seeds, like most spice seeds, need to be very well dried, but never with any sort of warm-air or forced drying, lest they lose some essential oils.

Fenugreek powder
Introduction : 

The seeds of fenugreek contain many active biological chemicals many it a potent medicinal and Organic Herbs Spices supplement. Fenugreek seeds are bitter in taste and has a strong and quite peculiar odor, hence, used in a very small quantity as a spice. The Powdered fenugreek seed has a beautiful golden yellow color due to its coloring agent called coumadine. That is why fenugreek seeds were used for a yellow dye by ancient Indians and Egyptians.

History :

Fenugreek seed powder has been used for centuries as a spice to increase the taste of curries by the Indian and the Chinese. This Fenugreek seed powder was first introduced to the Arabs and the Europeans through Spice Trading. Medicinally it was used for the treatment of wounds, abscesses, arthritis, bronchitis, and digestive problems. Traditional Chinese herbalists used it for kidney problems and conditions affecting the male reproductive tract. Fenugreek was, and remains, a food and a spice commonly eaten in many parts of the world.

Process of Manufacturing of Fenugreek Powder :

To make fenugreek powder the fresh fenugreek seeds are collected, cleaned to remove the physical impurities, like adhered soil and dirt. Then it is dried and gounded to make into powdered form. Fenugreek powder is packed with aseptic measures for storage and transportation.

Active Constituents and Proposed Mechanism of Action :

The steroidal saponins account for many of the beneficial effects of fenugreek, particularly the inhibition of cholesterol absorption and synthesis.

The seeds are rich in dietary fiber, which may be the main reason they can lower blood sugar levels in diabetes.

Amino acides like 4-hydroxyisoleucine
helps lower elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood.

Fenugreek seeds yields nicotinic acid alkaloid with roasting.
Fenugreek seeds contain a high percentage of mucilage in the coatings of seed which promotes evacuation of intestinal contents. Hence, fenugreek is a mild but effective laxative.

Uses of Fenugreek seed Powder :
Internal uses :

Fenugreek is used internally to stimulate appetite.

Tea made from Fenugreek seeds is equal in value to quinine in reducing fevers. Fenugreek used with lemon juice and honey also helps reduce fevers.

Fenugreek tea has a soothing effect on the inflamed stomach and intestines. It cleans the stomach, bowls and kidneys. It helps healing peptic ulcers by providing coating of mucilaginous matter.

Fenugreek has been used fairly extensively by lactation consultants to increase milk production in nursing mothers.

The ground seeds are used also to give a maple-flavouring to confectionery and nearly all cattle like the flavour of Fenugreek in their forage.

External uses :

It has also been used as external poultice to control inflammation.

The powder of seeds are utilized to an enormous extent in the manufactures of condition powders for horses and cattle.

Funugreek is the principal ingredient in most of the quack nostrums which find so much favour among grooms and horsekeepers. It has a powerful odour of coumarin and is largely used for flavouring cattle foods and to make damaged hay palatable.

Other Uses :
Fenugreek seeds are also used in candy, baked goods, ice cream, chewing gum and soft drinks. The seeds can be roasted and used as a coffee substitute.

Fenugreek leaves are dried and used as an insect repellent in grain storage.

Dose Recommendation :

A daily intake of 6 grams of fenugreek seed powder is recommendated commonly.

The typical range of intake for diabetes or cholesterol-lowering is 5–30 grams with each meal or 15–90 grams all at once with one meal.

Fenugreek as a forage for cattle

Fenugreek is an annual legume crop and could replace alfalfa in some rations.Fenugreek is  first grown in the early 1990s as a specialty crop in western Canada for seed. It is adapted to dryland growing conditions in western Canada, particularly the southern parts. New forage-type fenugreek cultivars have recently been developed at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) Research Station in Lethbridge, Alberta and at the University of Saskatchewan. Fenugreek is a suitable forage for lactating cows and the benefits it provides.

University of Alberta graduate student, Janet Montgomery initiated a study in 2006 to evaluate the growth potential and nutrient value of fenugreek grown in the Edmonton area for dairy cattle. “One of the reasons for cultivating  fenugreek is that it is a suitable forage for dairy cattle. Fenugreek maintains a high quality protein profile throughout the growing season,” . “Similar to some pea varieties, fenugreek has indeterminate growth, which allows for greater flexibility of timing of harvest.” For example, growers can harvest their barley and triticale silage first, leaving fenugreek until later without reducing its quality.

 Yields can be  doubled under irrigation. Therefore, dairy producers would have to supplement less, reducing their costs.” As a legume, fenugreek also fixes nitrogen during crop production, reducing fertilizer input costs. Fenugreek is reported to have early season frost tolerance, so seeding early is an option.

In 2006, two fenugreek cultivars, CDC Quatro and AAFC F70, were grown at the Edmonton Research Station.

In 2007, three varieties of fenugreek were grown in field plots, AAFC F70, CDC Quatro and CDC Canagreen. Tristar is another  forage cultivar of fenugreek . Tristar, which can be grown for hay or silage, produces high biomass yield and high quality forage, does not cause bloat and contains growth promoting substances such as diosgenin.

In an intercrop with cereal, the fenugreek grew much taller, as high as the cereal heads, and stems were thinner, which may increase quality.

For dairy producers, fenugreek may prove to be a suitable forage and cropping rotation option.