Chadon beni or shado beni is really a herb with a strong pungent scent and flavor that’s used extensively in Caribbean cooking, much more Trini cooking. The scientific term for the herb is’Eryngium foetidum’in Trinidad and Tobago the favorite “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 should not be confused. The confusion comes from the similarity in the two 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 will also be noted that chadon beni is one of the botanical family Apiaceae where parsley, dill, fennel, and celery, also belong to this botanical family. An aromatic family at that I would also add!
The plant passes several other names such false coriander, black benny, fitweed, duck-tongue herb, saw leaf herb, sawtooth coriander, spiny coriander, and long coriander. In Hindi it is called’Bhandhanya ‘. Different countries also have its own term 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, nearly all our recipes necessitate chadon beni. The herb is trusted to flavor many dishes and is the beds base herb used when seasoning meat. It’s utilized in marinades, sauces, bean dishes, soups, chutneys, snacks, and with vegetables. Culantro One popular chutney we love to create 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 cannot find culantro at your market, you are able to always substitute it with cilantro, but you will have to improve the quantity of cilantro used, or search for 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 generally 3-6 inches long. Each plant includes a stalk, usually 16 inch tall, with smaller prickly leaves and a cone-shaped greenish flower. When harvesting the herb’s leaves much care needs to be studied since the prickly leaves of the flower may make your skin itch. But that could easily be combated by wearing gloves or gently moving aside the flower stalk while picking the leaves.
The leaves of the chadon beni are also full of iron, carotene, riboflavin, and calcium, and are a fantastic source of vitamin A, B and C. This herb also offers medicinal properties. The leaves of the plant are a good remedy for high blood pressure, and epilepsy. In some Caribbean countries it is named fitweed because of its 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 used to cure headache, diarrhea, flu, fever, vomiting, colds, malaria, constipation, and pneumonia.
Chadon beni grows better in hot humid climates. It may be grown from the seed, but it is slow to germinate. This plant will need to get full sun to part shade, and put 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.