By: Gene Fifer
Published: 2018-07-18

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Culantro (Eryngium foetidum) is often confused with, or substituted for, cilantro (Coriandrum sativum L.; also called coriander). To add to the confusion, culantro has as many common names as countries of use:

Common name  Language or Country
longleaf or spiny coriander, sawtooth herb        English
shado beni or bhandhania Trinidad and Tobago
chadron benee Dominica
coulante Haiti
recao Puerto Rico
culantro de pata Honduras
culantro coyote Costa Rica
alcanate El Salvador
coentro do pará Brazil
fit weed Guyana
ketumbar java Malaysia
pak chi farang Thailand
ngo gai Vietnam
bhandhanya India

 

EDN140 figure 15

Figure 15. Culantro leaves. Source: The Rican Chef, Creative Commons Attribution License

Culantro is in the Apiaceae family, which includes carrot, parsley, celery, and parsnip. Like many of the plants in this family, culantro has a biennial life cycle. Its natural habitat is the moist, shaded floors of tropical forests. When cultivated, it does best in fertile soil, planted in the shade and watered abundantly. Full sun, high temperatures, and long day length will end foliage production and initiate flowering and seed production, known as bolting. Preventing bolting is the key to longer production of the leafy cooking ingredient. Culantro is planted from seed and takes three weeks or more to germinate. The leaves form a basal rosette and should be picked when 30 cm long and 4 cm wide (Figure 15). As the season progresses and flowering begins, the emerging flower stalks should be plucked off to promote vegetative growth. Culantro is relatively pest and disease free.

Culantro is commonly used in chutneys, curries, soups, and meat and noodle dishes in Asia. Sofrito, a common spice mixture added to many recipes throughout Latin America, consists of culantro, garlic, onion, sweet peppers, tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Culantro’s nutritional benefits include high levels of vitamins A, B2, B1, and C; it is also a rich source of calcium and iron. Culantro is used medicinally to reduce fevers (including from malaria), to relieve pneumonia symptoms, to reduce inflammation, and to relieve pain. The leaves and roots are boiled in water and used as a tea.

Go to ECHO’s Global Seed Bank or Asia Seed Bank to order culantro seeds and learn about other herbs we offer.

References

Ramcharan, C. 1999. Culantro: A Much Utilized, Little Understood Herb. Perspectives on New Crops and New Uses 506–509.

WorldCrops. 2018. Culantro. WorldCrops. 2018.