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.