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What Is Culantro? Get To Know This Tropical Herb

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What Is Culantro? Get To Know This Tropical Herb

Are you looking to add a little oomph to a pot of beans? Give more depth of flavor to a stew? Jazz up a sauce? What you need is a little culantro. No, not cilantroCulantro.

Culantro is an herb that hails from the Caribbean and is a wonderful flavor booster. What is culantro exactly? Let's take a closer look at this tropical herb you didn't know you needed.

What is culantro?
Culantro is a green herb with long serrated leaves that is native to the Americas. It is widely used in the Caribbean to spruce up anything from rice and beans to a pot of chicken soup. It has a faint smell of cilantro but a more robust flavor. Culantro is also used in several Asian countries including Vietnam and Thailand.

Other common names for culantro are sawtooth coriander, serrated coriander, recao (Puerto Rico), chadron benee (Dominica), shado beni and bhandhania (Trinidad and Tobago), coulante (Haiti), and fit weed (Guyana).  

How is culantro used?
This herb is the heart and soul of Puerto Rican sofrito. Commonly, it is chopped and added to beans, stews and rice preparations. Blended with garlic and onions, culantro makes a spectacular marinade for meats. It also makes a nice addition to chutneys.

Unlike cilantro, culantro isn't usually consumed fresh. It is best used in cooking to bring out the flavor of foods. Chopped culantro may be added to virtually any dish, just add it to the pot when sautéeing onions and garlic.

Where To Find It
Although it is widely popular in the Caribbean it can be hard to find abroad. Not all Latin markets carry culantro so look for markets that sell Puerto Rican and West Indian food. Look for bunches of culantro with whole leaves that are deep green with the roots intact, if possible.

Culantro’s Health Benefits
This tropical plant is rich in calcium and contains iron, riboflavin and carotene. Culantro also has medicinal value and may be prepared in tea form to combat the flu, diabetes, constipation and fevers, according to Purdue University.

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