Culantro (Eryngium foetidum) is a tropical biennial herb in the Apiaceae family which is more widely known as celery, carrot, or parsley family. It has a sharp, herby, citrusy flavor with subtle sweet undertones and a pungent odor.
Culantro vs. Cilantro
If you accidentally type cilantro instead of culantro while researching this plant, Google will not give you any warning and ask if you meant to write culantro. That is because there is something in the plant world called cilantro.
Culantro and cilantro are two plants that not only have similar names but also come from the same family and have similar flavors and aromas, which adds to the confusion.
However, cilantro is a word used to describe the leaves that come from the plant species Coriandrum sativum, i.e., coriander, as it is called in most places in the world. In Spanish, the word cilantro means, well, coriander leaves.
Culantro and cilantro are similar in the flavor and aroma departments, as we have already said, but culantro’s flavor and aroma are much stronger, which is why people will usually describe culantro as a more potent cilantro.
These qualities contribute to the fact that culantro can be used during cooking and its dried leaves in seasoning, which is not often done with coriander.
Name and Origin
The scientific name of the genus Eryngium possibly comes from the Greek word erum (protection, defense), which refers to the prickly and toothed leaves. The name of the species, foetidum, is a Latin word that means foul-smelling or stink and was given in reference to the strong aroma that this plant emits.
Some of its common names are long coriander, false coriander, recao, Puerto Rican coriander, Black Benny, saw leaf herb, Mexican coriander, spiny coriander, fitweed, and spirit weed.
Culantro is native to Central and South America and the Caribbean.
In its native environment, this plant can grow up to 12 inches tall and 10 inches wide.
If you grow it at home, expect it to be slightly smaller, with its leaves reaching 6 to 10 inches in height and about 2 to 3 inches in width. They are dark green and lanceolate with sawtoothed edges and grow in rosettes.
Culantro is a mostly pest and disease-free low-maintenance plant that attracts beneficial insects such as green lacewings and ladybugs. You can grow it in a container or garden, where it should be planted in the spring when the danger of frost has passed.
Culantro is a plant that grows best in partial shade since that results in the production of larger and more tender leaves with an even more intense aroma.
Cultivation in partial shade also allows for a more extended harvesting season.
Your culantro plant will thrive in warm, well-drained soil that has high amounts of organic matter and nutrients.
Culantro is a plant that likes moisture but not too much of it, so you should be careful with your watering regimen and water it only when the top inch of the soil is dry.
When grown outside, Eryngium foetidum requires a temperature range of 70 to 90 F. The optimal temperature for the germination of its seeds is 80 F.
Although most people grow culantro as an annual herb, it is a biennial one and can be grown as such in USDA zones 8 to 11.
Although this herb is quite popular in Latin American and Southeast Asian cooking, it is probably most used in Caribbean cuisine.
It is an indispensable part of recaito, a culantro-based sauce and cooking base used in many Puerto Rican dishes.
Culantro can be utilized in many dishes where you will find cilantro because they have a similar flavor. However, you should use smaller amounts of culantro than you would cilantro because of its stronger aroma.
Since it is recommended to add culantro during and not after cooking, you will usually find it chopped as a part of beans, stews, rice, soups, curries, and noodles. Dried culantro leaves are used in chutneys, sauces, salads, and toppings since.
Culantro tea, made from boiled leaves and roots, is used to combat flu, diabetes, pneumonia, constipation, and fevers. Raw leaves stimulate appetite, improve digestion, and relieve stomach aches.