The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

A new flavor in Nebraska's fields


Fenugreek is an herb that fans of Indian cuisine are familiar with, whether or not they know what the plant looks like. But its flavor and appearance are not as important as the herb's versatility.

Used for centuries both to flavor dishes and in home remedies, it is included in modern medications for diabetes, high cholesterol and liver damage. Fenugreek can also be forage for ranch animals.

Dipak Santra and Alexander Pavlista from the University of Nebraska Lincoln Agriculture Laboratory in Sidney have been working over the past four years to develop a hybrid of fenugreek that will thrive in western Nebraska. The plant is cultivated around the world, but requires the proper environment.

"We expect to see some results in the next two to three years," said Santra, "We still don't know the best planting time, when to harvest and how much or when to irrigate."

Although India produces 80 percent of the world's crop, it was introduced to Canada in the 1990s and grew satisfactorily. Santra and Pavlista, along with soil and nutrient management specialist Gary Hergert, studied the plantings in Canada. They also compared climate and soil types to those found in other growing regions. Working with eight varieties, they have been testing adaptability to the panhandle.

By the end of their research, they hope to have fine-tuned the balance between farming practies, nutrients, irrigation and weather.

The group plans to work alongside UNL's Food Science and Technology faculty to learn the flavor and medicinal properties available in a Nebraska strain, should the fenugreek project succeed.

And should it succeed, it may become the state's first farm to pharmacy crop.


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