Shadow Benny is a wild growing Caribbean plant that goes under many names. Chadon, Shadon, Shado Beni, Mexican Coriander, Sawtooth Coriander, Fitweed, and Spiritweed. It has even more names in Asia, but in the United States, you will most commonly find it called Culantro.
It grows best in rich, moist soil, and likes partial shade, but it is pretty forgiving of wherever you plant it. In cooler temperatures it is an annual, but here in Florida, it grows all of the time. It is naturally pest resistant and is somewhere between a low maintenance to a no maintenance plant. Mine has been in the same spot for two years and the only thing I’ve ever done to it is pinch off the spiny flower blossoms now and then.
So what is it good for? It is used all over the world medicinally for treating flu, burns, constipation, diarrhea, fever, chills, worms, snake bite, scorpion stings, and even diabetes. Its name fitweed comes from its use in treating seizures and epilepsy.
It is high in calcium, iron, carotene, and riboflavin and acts as an appetite stimulant, so it has many culinary uses as well. The taste is very similar to cilantro, but stronger and it can be used in chutneys, marinades, sauces, salsas, meat and vegetable dishes.
I’m partial to it because for me, it was my first “light bulb on” plant. About 10 years ago I was trying to get some tips from another gardener about growing cilantro in Central Florida. She asked me why I was growing cilantro instead of culantro when they taste the same and culantro is easier to grow. She gave me some cuttings and there it was, light bulb on. If there are two plants with similar properties and one is easy to grow where you live and one is difficult, it just makes sense to grow the easy one.