Kids Corner


Methi: A Wondrous Herb & Spice



Insulin resistance is a plague affecting so many these days. Too much sugar (glucose) in the blood can wreak havoc on the body causing both nerve damage and damage to the blood vessels leading to stroke and heart disease.

Did you know that methi - fenugreek in English, that herb and spice so often used in Punjabi cooking - is a well-recognized natural remedy to decrease insulin resistance? As a spice, the tan seeds have also been used for centuries to increase mother's milk as well as providing special "maple" flavor to dishes and pickles. They are now available in capsule form and sold in health food stores.

But why take a capsule when you can enjoy the flavor in delicious and nutritious food? As a fresh herb, the dark green, clover-like leaves are rather bitter but add a distinctive taste to all sorts of dishes from the popular vegetable combo with potatoes -  aloo-methi - to dishes with lentils and parauntha flatbreads. Small amounts of the pungent, dried leaves may spark dishes with mild greens like spinach.

Punjabi and Indian grocers carry the fresh greens year-round, usually next to the cilantro. And, in the freezer section, a godsend for the busy cook, are packages of small blocks of chopped greens. 

A big hit was one of the healthy dishes, Fenugreek with Lentils and Butternut Squash, I developed to serve at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City for the launch of my cookbook.

Another dish, also found on my website - Rani's - combines Peas with Fenugreek and Tofu, giving the nutritional support of protein, which, besides fenugreek, is also known to keep blood glucose in check.

Find an easy and really delicious recipe for Methi Parauntha in Menus and Memories From Punjab.



Red Lentils with Fenugreek and Pumpkin (vegan)


Yield: 6 cups

½ cup red lentils

2 cups water

2 teaspoons salt

2 bunches fresh fenugreek leaves (methi) or two frozen cubes, thawed

2 pounds edible pumpkin

¼ cup canola oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2-inch piece ginger, grated

1 rounded teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon whole or ground cumin seeds

2 teaspoons ground coriander seeds

1 green chile pepper, sliced


Pick over the lentils and rinse. In a medium saucepan, bring the water and salt to a boil and add the lentils. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Set aside.

Cut the roots from the fenugreek and soak the leaves and stems in a large pan of cold water. Swish several times to release any sand. Lift the fenugreek to a colander and rinse again. Allow to drain, and then pluck the leaves, discarding the stems. Chop the leaves, place in a glass bowl with 1 cup of water, cover, and microwave for five minutes on high.

Microwave the pumpkin on high for 8 minutes before peeling and then cut into 1-inch cubes -about 4 cups. Place the lentils and squash in a large saucepan. Cover and simmer over low heat until the squash is cooked, about 15 minutes. Mash slightly.

Heat the oil in a large wok and add the onion. Sauté until transparent and then add the garlic and ginger. Add the spices and sauté until the onions are golden. Add the green chile pepper, stir and sauté for another minute. Add the fenugreek and stir-fry for a few minutes. Stir in the squash mixture. Lower the heat. Cover and cook for 5 more minutes before serving. (This dish freezes well.)


[In addition to authoring the well-received cookbook, Menus and Memories from Punjab: Meals to Nourish Body and Soul, the author is a regular columnist on, and has also contributed to magazines like KAURS and HEAL India as well as books such as the 2nd Ed. of the Oxford Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink. She also lectures on the Health Benefits of Spices.]

May 17, 2011

Conversation about this article

1: Michele Gibson (Mount.Forest, Ontario, Canada), May 17, 2011, 12:48 PM.

Thank you, I will try this recipe. I absolutely love this herb. Few scents immediately speak to the soul like this one. From day one of exposure via my lovely mother-in-law, I have been its fan. Methi, saffron, cardamom, cilantro, basmati rice, warm parshad, fresh cut grass, roses, Channel 22 ...! Wonderful.

2: Dr. S.P.S.Bhatia (Kanpur, India), May 17, 2011, 2:15 PM.

A Caveat: herbs and spices are not a cure, even though they may help. Never let go of your exercise regimen, weight-control strategy, diet management, and what your doctor asks you to do ... or not do.

3: R. Singh (Canada), May 19, 2011, 1:31 AM.

The herb in the picture is methae. Methi is more delicate and has small sesame-like seeds.

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