CHADON BENI / CULANTRO
Eryngium foetidum, also known as Chadon Beni, Culantro, Shadow beni, Bhandhanya, Fitweed, Long Coriander, False Cilantro, Shado beni, Sawtooth, Spiritweed, Ngo gai, Ketumbar java, Mexican coriander, Donnia, and probably a few others.
Here in the Caribbean and over in Southeast Asia, Culantro is often readily available at produce markets or stands, because it is a commonly used ingredient. Outside of these areas, the herb can be challenging to find, as it is not found in many cuisines.
As the name Culantro suggests, Culantro tastes very much like Cilantro, with a somewhat stronger and more potent flavor. As is the case with Cilantro, Culantro is not to everyone’s taste. The flavor can be overpowering especially when paired with poor choices of seasoning and spices. However, the flavor is quite unique, and some foods would not taste the same without Culantro it.
This flavor is often utilized in marinades and sauces, and the herb is also used as a garnish and to dress various foods. The distinctive pungency is especially popular in Trinidad, where it is used in traditional salsas and dressings, along with hot sauces. It is also used to make the popular Recaito of Puerto Rican cuisine.
People can also grow Culantro at home from seeds or starts; its growth habit is much like that of cilantro, so care is advised in especially warm climates, where the herb may bolt to seed.
Culantro is not however an alternate spelling of Cilantro. Culantro is a completely different plant from Cilantro, and is harder to get then Cilantro and though the two are cousins, and taste similar, they look nothing alike and are very easy to differentiate by appearance.
The leaves of the Culantro are rich in iron, carotene, riboflavin, and calcium, and are an excellent source of vitamin A,B, C. This herb is believed to have medicinal properties. The leaves of the plant are supposed to be a good remedy for high blood pressure, and epilepsy. In some Caribbean countries it is called fit-weed because of its anti-convulsion properties. It is a stimulant and has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. And it is believed that the entire plant could be used to cure headache, diarrhea, flu, fever, vomiting, colds, malaria, constipation, and pneumonia.
Culantro is most popularly known as Chadon Beni in the English-speaking Caribbean, and is used extensively in the cuisine of Trinidad and Tobago. In fact, it is one of the key herbs in the cuisine of that twin-island republic.
Native to the West Indies and Central America, it is the long, serrated leaves of Culantro that are popular ingredients in Caribbean and Asian dishes. It is sold in mixed herb packages or in stacks of leaves by themselves both at the supermarket and farmers' markets. Wash, dry well and wrap the Culantro in paper towels and store in airtight bags or containers.