Culantro

by Daisy on 07/05/2016

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IMG_0726Culantro, Eryngium foetidum, is very distinct from cilantro, in spite of having a similar name.

It does have a similar flavor and scent.

Close your nose, though, and from its appearance, you would never confuse the two plants.

IMG_0728

In the same family as cilantro, Apiacaea, culantro looks a lot more like its cousin, parsley, but with a distinct difference–culantro has thistle-like spikes which appear on the terminal flower shoots once it bolts. Ouch.

It’s worth dealing with the spikes, though, if you’re a cilantro lover like me.

Stronger than cilantro, it only takes a pinch to get that oddly addictive aroma/flavor into a dish of salsa or beans or huevos rancheros. And, unlike cilantro, culantro retains more of it’s oomph when dried.

Medicinally, culantro leaves and roots are used for fever and intestinal complaints, as well as as an anticonvulsant.

Years ago, I tried growing culantro from seeds, with no success. It was probably user error. This time, I saw Burpee had plants for sale through their catalog, and I snatched up a trio. I’m hoping they will self-seed for next year, but just in case I’ll save some seeds, as I don’t expect the tender perennial plants to live through the frosts and freezes without protection. In the meantime, I’ve been enjoying it in my kitchen.

I put some in this salsa the other day, just a pinch, and it was delicious.

It’s also a common ingredient in sofrito, a spicy seasoning paste common in Caribbean/Puerto Rican cuisine, also known as recaito (recipe).

You may know culantro by another name, as it seems to be common in many cultures. Have you ever heard of it? What do you call it and how do you use it in your neck of the woods? I’d love to know.



{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Lynn Roitt July 6, 2016 at 6:00 am

I looked on the burpee website and only found what they called Mexican culantro, but it looked nothing like yours. If had long narrow leaves with a rounded tip from a basal rosette. Is it the same?

Daisy July 6, 2016 at 6:36 am

Lynn Roitt–Yes, that’s it, it looks quite different when in the growing stage. Mine has bolted already.

Ana Lacey July 6, 2016 at 12:07 pm

Hi Daisy:
I was born in Puerto Rico and we do call it culantro. We use it in ALL of our dishes that require sofrito. I planted some last year and it did bolt but have a new crop coming in. Have you ever made sofrito? I prepare it then freeze it in ice cube trays and use it whenever I am cooking Rican.

Daisy July 7, 2016 at 3:12 am

Ana–I’ve only ever used cilantro and am looking forward to using the real culantro. I love your idea of freezing cubes of sofrito. My mouth is watering.

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