Chadon beni or shado beni is just a herb with a strong pungent scent and flavor that’s 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 stronger 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 goes on 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’s called’Bhandhanya ‘. Different countries also 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, nearly all our recipes demand chadon beni. The herb is trusted to flavor many dishes and is the bottom herb used when seasoning meat. Chado Beni 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” which 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, however you will have to improve 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 usually 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 must be studied because the prickly leaves of the flower will make the skin 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 will also be rich in iron, carotene, riboflavin, and calcium, and are a fantastic source of vitamin A, B and C. This herb also has medicinal properties. The leaves of the plant are a good solution for high blood pressure, and epilepsy. In a few Caribbean countries it is called 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 used to cure headache, diarrhea, flu, fever, vomiting, colds, malaria, constipation, and pneumonia.
Chadon beni grows better in hot humid climates. It could be grown from the seed, but it’s slow to germinate. This plant must get full sun to part shade, and put in fertile, moist, and well-drained soil.
This really is among the best herbs in cooking and with such flavorful and health qualities, I can’t do without this simple but extraordinary herb.