Culantro is a tropical perennial and annual herb in the family Apiaceae. Other common names include Mexican coriander and long coriander. It is native to Mexico and South America, but is cultivated worldwide. In Australia, Europe, and the United States it is not well known outside Latino and Caribbean communities, and the name culantro sometimes causes confusion with Coriander, the leaves of which can be known as cilantro, and which culantro is said to taste like.
Commonly known as culantro in English-speaking Caribbean countries, it is also referred to as shado beni (from French chardon béni, meaning “blessed thistle,” not to be confused with the similarly named cnicus benedictus) or bandhaniya (Hindi: बन्धनिय, meaning “shrub cilantro”). Other common names include: culantro coyote (Costa Rica), recao (Puerto Rico), long coriander, wild or Mexican coriander, fitweed, spiritweed, stinkweed, duck-tongue herb, sawtooth or saw-leaf herb, and sawtooth coriander.
In Southeast Asian cooking, the Vietnamese name ngò gai’, The Cambodian (Khmer) name ji ana (ជីររណារ) (other names are ជីរបារាំង ji barang, ជីរយួន ji yuon, ជីរបន្លា ji banla, ជីរសង្កើច ji sankoech), or (less often) the Thai name phak chi farang (Thai: ผักชีฝรั่ง, meaning “Farang’s coriander”) are sometimes used. In India, it is used mainly in the northeastern state of Manipur, where it is known by the local name awa phadigom or sha maroi, Mizoram, where it is known as bahkhawr and Tripura, where it is known as bilati dhonia (Bengali phrase that literally means foreign corriander) and in Nagaland it is commonly known as Burma dhania. In Surinam, it is known as “sneki wiwiri”, meaning snake weed, and is used for preparing homeopathic medicine, but not eaten.
In Peru, where coriander is known as culantro, E. foetidum is used in the cooking of the Amazon region and is referred to as sacha culantro (jungle culantro).
Culantro is widely used in seasoning and marinating in the Caribbean, particularly in Panama, Puerto Rico and Trinidad and Tobago, and in Peru’s Amazon regions.
It is also used extensively in Thailand, India, Vietnam, Laos, and other parts of Asia as a culinary herb. It dries well, retaining good colour and flavour, making it valuable in the dried herb industry.
The leaf is quite tough so it is not eaten raw but added to soups and stews. Overcooking will destroy most of the flavour.
Refer also to Traditional Medicine Uses of Culantro
Culantro is reported to be rich in calcium, iron, carotene, and riboflavin. Fresh leaves are 86–88% moisture, 3.3% protein, 0.6% fat, 6.5% carbohydrate, 1.7% ash, 0.06% phosphorus, and 0.02% iron. Leaves are an excellent source of vitamin A (10,460 I.U./100 g), B2 (60 mg %), B1 (0.8 mg %), and C (150–200 mg %) . On a dry weight basis, leaves consist of 0.1–0.95% volatile oil, 27.7% crude fibre, 1.23% calcium, and 25 ppm boron.
- Culantro can often be found in Asian markets, however it may be named long coriander so try and remember what it looks like when you go shopping,
- Another alternative if you have “green fingers” is to grow your own. For seeds and information see Green Harvest.
- Coriander – The leaves have a similar flavour, and are less bitter