Chadon Beni : Trini Natural herb Extraordinaire.

Chadon beni or shado beni is just a herb with a solid pungent scent and flavor that is used extensively in Caribbean cooking, much more Trini cooking. The scientific term for the herb is’Eryngium foetidum’however 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 shouldn’t be confused. The confusion arises 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 should also be noted that chadon beni belongs to 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 provide 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)
Stinkdistel (Netherland)
Culantro, Shado beni or Chadon beni (Trinidad and Tobago)

In Trinidad and Tobago, almost all our recipes demand chadon beni. The herb is trusted to flavor many dishes and is the base herb used when seasoning meat. It’s used in marinades, sauces, bean dishes, soups, chutneys, snacks, and with vegetables. One popular chutney we love to produce on the island is “Chadon Beni Chutney” that is 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’ll have to increase 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. Culantro 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 must be studied since the prickly leaves of the flower can make the skin itch. But that will easily be combated by wearing gloves or gently moving aside the flower stalk while picking the the leaves.

The leaves of the chadon beni are also abundant with iron, carotene, riboflavin, and calcium, and are an excellent source of vitamin A, B and C. This herb even offers medicinal properties. The leaves of the plant really are a good solution for high blood pressure, and epilepsy. In certain Caribbean countries it is named fitweed because of its anti-convulsant properties. It is just 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 may be grown from the seed, but it is slow to germinate. This plant must get full sun to part shade, and placed in fertile, moist, and well-drained soil.

This is among my personal favorite herbs in cooking and with such flavorful and health qualities, I can’t do without this simple but extraordinary herb.

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