Garden Word of the Day
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If you enjoy curry, you may want to try growing your own fenugreek. But don’t do it for the wrong reasons.
Fenugreek is one of those foods touted as a miraculous cure-all for cramps, hair loss, high blood sugar, insufficient breast milk, indigestion, and diabetes. While there may be some truth to the diabetes claim, all the other claims lack any scientific proof, and even the diabetes research is incomplete at this time. That being said, there are plenty of delicious reasons to grow your own fenugreek.
Fenugreek as food
For over 4,000 years, people have grown this annual legume. It thrives in semiarid conditions, and its seeds and leaves are popular ingredients in dishes from South and Central Asia. Like other legumes, fenugreek is high in protein and fiber. A 3.5 ounce serving of fenugreek seed provides 323 calories, 58g. carbohydrates, 25g. dietary fiber, and 23g. of protein. It also contains significant portions of the RDAs for thiamine (28%), riboflavin (31%), Vitamin B6, (46%), folate (14%), iron (262%), magnesium (54%), manganese (59%), phosphorus (42%), and zinc (26%). [Who knew curry was so good for us?!!?] Fenugreek seeds are generally roasted to reduce bitterness and enrich flavor. And it’s not just the seeds of the fenugreek plant that are eaten. Fresh fenugreek leaves, which are said to taste similar to spinach, are used as a vegetable in many Persian and Indian dishes. Dried leaves are used as an herb.
The fenugreek plant
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum), also known as methi, samurai, and hilba, among others, is a fragrant annual. It may grow as a single stem, or as a small bushy plant, reaching a height of 2 feet. Green to purple oval leaves are small and trifoliate (having three leaflets). It looks a lot like clover and alfalfa. Flowers are small and either white or purple. Seeds develop inside curved yellow pods. This plant is moderately drought resistant and it can handle a light frost.
How to grow fenugreek
This plant needs heat, so you may want to grow it in a container, maybe on a windowsill. Fenugreek has a shallow root system, so the container does not need to be very large. You can grow fenugreek as a microgreen by simply sprinkling seeds on top the soil in a shallow container, and then lightly covering them with more soil.
Fenugreek seeds should be planted 1/4” deep, in rich potting soil. Keep the soil moist until germination occurs. Fenugreek does not like our heavy clay, and it does not take kindly to being transplanted, so it is best started where it will stay for the growing season. These seeds sprout very quickly, usually in only 2 to 4 days, making it an exciting children’s activity.
Fenugreek pests and diseases
Fenugreek is susceptible to root rot, powdery mildew, and charcoal rot. These diseases can be minimized by allowing the soil to dry out between waterings. Aphids are the most common pest of fenugreek.
Fenugreek can be grown as a microgreen, or you can go for the full growing experience. Generally, young leaves and shoots are snipped off the plant early in the growing season. Then the plant is allowed to continue growing to produce seeds, usually 3 to 5 months after planting. To harvest seeds, the plant is removed and hung upside down to dry.
Have you had your fenugreek today?
Arugula is a tangy salad green that grows best in cooler seasons.
Back in Roman times, it was forbidden to grow arugula in monastery gardens because it was considered an aphrodisiac. My guess is, it got that reputation because of all the Vitamins A, C, and K, and potassium it provided, giving diners the energy and good health needed for physical activity. In any case, arugula is now recognized as a delicious, healthy, gourmet salad green.
As a member of the cabbage family (Brassicaceae), arugula is cousin to cauliflower, turnips, kale, and the mustards. Also known as rocket or Mediterranean salad, arugula (Eruca vesicaria ssp. sativa) makes an easy addition to any foodscape. Arugula grows rather quickly. Within 40 to 50 days after planting seeds, you can begin harvesting its tasty leaves. Because arugula grows so quickly, it makes a good catch crop. Catch crops are those plants added between bigger crops, to maintain soil microorganisms and to reduce erosion.
How to grow arugula
Arugula roots enjoy muddy, mucky soils. Since the Bay Area’s clay soil can hold a substantial amount of water, autumn and early spring are the perfect times to plant this healthy salad green. Start by planting seeds 1/2” deep, and water them in well. When seedlings are 1” tall, thin them so that they are spaced 6 to 9” apart. You can do this by tickling their roots apart and transplanting, or you can snip off any extras at ground level, reducing stress to delicate new roots. To keep leaves tender and tasty, be sure to keep the soil evenly moist. Periods of dryness will increase bitterness and trigger bolting.
By regularly snipping off outer leaves for kitchen use, you will stimulate your arugula plants to continue producing new, tender leaves through the cooler weather. Because arugula becomes peppery and bitter as it matures, you may want to continue planting new seeds in succession, for a continuous crop. If allowed to go through their lifecycle unmolested, arugula plants will readily self-seed an area, providing many years of salad greens with little to no effort on your part. Local pollinators, and pollen and nectar eaters, will appreciate the banquet, as well, increasing your garden’s biodiversity.
Arugula pests and diseases
As with many other older species of plant, arugula tends to be relatively pest and disease free. Bacterial leaf spot, downy mildews, and white rust may occur if water stays on the leaves for an extended period. Bagrada bugs can also be a problem, but your arugula plants will be relatively trouble-free.
Try adding arugula to your garden today!
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!
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