Chadon beni or shado beni is really a herb with a solid pungent scent and flavor that’s used extensively in Caribbean cooking, more so Trini cooking. The scientific name for the herb is’Eryngium foetidum’in Trinidad and Tobago the popular “market” names for chadon beni are culantro or bhandhania.
Culantro is distinct from cilantro or coriander (another herb) which carries the scientific name’coriandrum sativum’and shouldn’t be confused. The confusion comes from the similarity in the 2 herbs’scents. The difference between Chadon beni (or culantro) and cilantro is that chadon beni (or culantro) has a tougher and more pungent scent. It should also be noted that chadon beni belongs to the botanical family Apiaceae where parsley, dill, fennel, and celery, also belong to the botanical family. An aromatic family at that I would also add!
The plant goes by a number of other names such false coriander, black benny, fitweed, duck-tongue herb, saw leaf herb, sawtooth coriander, spiny coriander, and long coriander. In Hindi it’s referred to as’Bhandhanya ‘. Different countries also have its name for this herb. Some examples are:
Alcapate (El Salvador)
Cilantro extranjero, cilantro habanero, parejil de tabasco (Mexico)
Ngo gai (Vietnam)
Pak chi farang or pak chee (Thailand)
Racao or recao (Puerto Rico and Spain)
Sea holly (Britain)
Jia yuan qian (China)
Fitweed or spiritweed (Jamaica)
Langer koriander (Germany)
Culantro, Shado beni or Chadon beni (Trinidad and Tobago)
In Trinidad and Tobago, virtually all our recipes call for chadon beni. The herb is trusted to flavor many dishes and is the base herb used when seasoning meat. It is utilized in marinades, sauces, bean dishes, soups, chutneys, snacks, and with vegetables. Chadon Beni One popular chutney we like to produce on the island is “Chadon Beni Chutney” that will be usually served with a favourite trini snack called pholourie (pronounced po-lor-rie). If you fail to find culantro at your market, you are able to always substitute it with cilantro, but you will have to boost the amount of cilantro used, or seek out it by its many names as listed above.
The leaves of the chandon beni are spear like, serrated, and stiff spined and the dark, green, shiny leaves are often 3-6 inches long. Each plant has a stalk, usually 16 inch tall, with smaller prickly leaves and a cone shaped greenish flower. When harvesting the herb’s leaves much care has to be used as the prickly leaves of the flower could make your skin itch. But that may easily be combated by wearing gloves or gently moving aside the flower stalk while picking the the leaves.
The leaves of the chadon beni may also be full of iron, carotene, riboflavin, and calcium, and are a fantastic supply of vitamin A, B and C. This herb even offers medicinal properties. The leaves of the plant are a good remedy for high blood pressure, and epilepsy. In certain Caribbean countries it is named fitweed due to the anti-convulsant properties. It is really a stimulant and has anti-inflamatory and analgestic properties. As a matter of fact, the complete plant could be utilized to cure headache, diarrhea, flu, fever, vomiting, colds, malaria, constipation, and pneumonia.
Chadon beni grows better in hot humid climates. It can be grown from the seed, but it’s slow to germinate. This plant will need to get full sun to part shade, and placed in fertile, moist, and well-drained soil.
That is one of my favorite herbs in cooking and with such flavorful and health qualities, I can’t do without this simple but extraordinary herb.