Chadon Beni : Trini Botanical 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 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 originates 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 stronger and more pungent scent. It will 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 on 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 called’Bhandhanya ‘. Different countries likewise 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)
Stinkdistel (Netherland)
Culantro, Shado beni or Chadon beni (Trinidad and Tobago)

In Trinidad and Tobago, nearly all our recipes demand chadon beni. Chadon Beni The herb is trusted to flavor many dishes and is the beds base herb used when seasoning meat. It is used in marinades, sauces, bean dishes, soups, chutneys, snacks, and with vegetables. One popular chutney we like to make on the island is “Chadon Beni Chutney” which can 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, but you will have to improve 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 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 needs to be studied since the prickly leaves of the flower can make your skin layer 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 will also be full of iron, carotene, riboflavin, and calcium, and are a great source of vitamin A, B and C. This herb also has medicinal properties. The leaves of the plant really are a good remedy for high blood pressure, and epilepsy. In certain 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 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’s slow to germinate. This plant will have to get full sun to part shade, and placed in fertile, moist, and well-drained soil.

That is one of 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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