Chadon beni or shado beni is just a herb with a solid pungent scent and flavor that is used extensively in Caribbean cooking, moreso Trini cooking. The scientific name for the herb is’Eryngium foetidum’but 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 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’d 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 known as’Bhandhanya ‘. Different countries likewise have its own 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, almost all our recipes necessitate chadon beni. The herb is widely used to flavor many dishes and is the beds base herb used when seasoning meat. It’s used in marinades, sauces, bean dishes, soups, chutneys, snacks, and with vegetables. Chardon 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 can always substitute it with cilantro, however you will have to boost the quantity 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 generally 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 taken as the prickly leaves of the flower will make your skin layer itch. But that can 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 supply of vitamin A, B and C. This herb also offers medicinal properties. The leaves of the plant certainly are a good solution for high blood pressure, and epilepsy. In a few Caribbean countries it is called fitweed due to the anti-convulsant properties. It is just a stimulant and has anti-inflamatory and analgestic properties. As a matter of fact, the whole plant could be properly 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’s slow to germinate. This plant will have to get full sun to part shade, and put in fertile, moist, and well-drained soil.
This really 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.