Desi, But Not Really: How Indians Learned To Love Methi
Image Credit: Methi paratha is one of the most popular methi dishes | Instagram @interesting_and_delicious_food

There is no particular reason why Indians love their methi or fenugreek. It’s one of the most popular and widely-consumed herbs in the country. The leaves of this versatile plant, which grows wild in different parts of the country, are used for several medicinal and culinary purposes. From pickling it to using it to make chutneys, masalas, curries, and sauces, there are so many ways to eat methi.

Here’s how Indians learned to love this "desi," but not really Indian, spice called methi. Read on to find out more about how you can eat methi without going overboard.

How did methi come to India?

Food historians say that the first reference to methi in India is in the Sanskrit literature of 800-350 BC. It was already an important part of Egyptian embalming practices due to its bitter nature. Methi has a strong reputation as a medicine because of its harsh, bitter taste. But it is now a forgotten herb in the west and still remains a popular herb in India, where it is used in various curries and pickles.

Even today, Calcutta’s Jewish community prepares a hilbeh-like paste out of it, which has links to Yemen through Aden. There are traces of it in Hyderabadi food, with links to Yemen through the many migrants who came from there to the Nizam’s court. The Parsis who emigrated from Iran brought their own applications for methi, which is used to season dhansak. 

5 Things You Should Know about Methi

  • The fenugreek plant grows wild in many parts of the Indian subcontinent, especially in the southwest, west, and north-west.
  • While most people associate this herb with Indian cuisine, it is also commonly used in African, Chinese, Sri Lankan, and Nepali cuisines. In fact, it is one of the most widely used herbs in the world.
  • The leaves of this herb are rich in vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants. They are great for skin and hair care as well.
  • It is also known to contain chemicals like alkaloids that have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties that make it a great herb for treating various ailments.
  • The methi plant's leaves have a lot of bioactive compounds that are very important for good health.

Methi is an easy plant to grow | Unsplash

The methi plant is easy to grow, and the leaves can be used in curries and soups, while the flavor comes from the seeds. The leaves are rich in iron, calcium, and vitamins, making them a great source of nutrition. The best way to pick the leaves of the methi plant is to get them from your local farmers’ market. You can also grow methi in your garden. You can grow methi either in pots or in the open. Make sure that the temperature in your garden is between 18 and 35 degrees Celsius. Once you have picked the leaves, make sure they are dry and not wet. You can keep them in your cupboard in an airtight container.

The most popular ways to incorporate methi in your diet

Pickled methi: You can pickle the leaves in vinegar, ginger, and garlic and consume them as a side dish, or pickle them to give them a different flavor and add them to your Indian curry or masala.

Rasam is a popular lentil soup in South India. Rasam is a very healthy meal because it is made with three types of lentils. The methi leaves are one of the lentils used to make rasam.

Dal: Pickled methi leaves can be made into a delicious dal. You can serve dal, rice, and steamed vegetables as a complete meal.

Pachadi: Pachadi is a spicy and sour pickle that has methi in it. This can be served with idly, sambar, pongal, dosa, or as a side dish.

Methi mint chutney: You can make a spicy and tangy mint chutney that you can use to top your steamed vegetables, idly, sambar, pongal, dosa, or pachad.

The leaves of the methi plant are rich in iron, vitamins, and minerals, making them a great source of nutrition. They are also great for your health as they contain antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and anti-diabetic properties. You can grow methi in your garden and savor the benefits of this medicinal herb right at home.