What is Chadon Beni
Chadon beni or shado beni is a herb with a strong pungent scent and flavor that is used extensively in Caribbean cooking, more so 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 should not be confused. The confusion comes 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 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 leaves of the chandon beni are spearlike, 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 leaves much care has to be taken because the prickly leaves of the flower can 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 Many Names of Chadon Beni
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 is referred to as ‘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)
- Stinkdistel (Netherland)
- Shado beni or Chadon beni (Trinidad and Tobago)
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 placed in fertile, moist, and well-drained soil.
Cooking with Chadon Beni
This is one of my favorite herbs in cooking and with such flavourful and health qualities, I can’t do without this simple but extraordinary herb: Chadon Beni.