Chadon Beni – Trini Tea Extraordinaire.

Chadon beni or shado beni is a herb with a powerful pungent scent and flavor that is used extensively in Caribbean cooking, more so Trini cooking. The scientific term for the herb is’Eryngium foetidum’however in Trinidad and Tobago the most 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 should not be confused. The confusion originates 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 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 passes numerous 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 a unique 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, nearly all our recipes call for chadon beni. The herb is trusted to flavor many dishes and is the bottom herb used when seasoning meat. It is utilized in marinades, sauces, bean dishes, soups, chutneys, snacks, and with vegetables. One popular chutney we love to make on the island is “Chadon Beni Chutney” that is 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, however 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. Trinidad cooking chadon beni Each plant features 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 taken since the prickly leaves of the flower may make your 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 are also full of iron, carotene, riboflavin, and calcium, and are a fantastic supply 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 named fitweed due to its anti-convulsant properties. It is a stimulant and has anti-inflamatory and analgestic properties. As a matter of fact, the entire 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 can be grown from the seed, but it is slow to germinate. This plant will have to get full sun to part shade, and put into fertile, moist, and well-drained soil.

This really is certainly 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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