Who could ask for a more whimsical name? Good King Henry has been used as a vegetable for centuries and was once a common sight in every garden. But this reliable kitchen garden staple has fallen by the wayside in recent years, since it is not easily cultivated in large commercial operations. Good King Henry may have lost his court and become something of a rarity today, but this unique herb still has much to offer to the home or cottage gardener.
Good King Henry is a perennial herb in the family Chenopodiaceae, the same plant family as some familiar vegetables (including beetroot and chard) and some other useful but more unusual plants including quinoa and tree spinach. This unique herb possesses many unusual functions. One of its many common names is ‘All Good’ and pretty much all of the plant can be eaten.
The succulent young leaves and flowering stems can be either eaten in salads or cooked like spinach. The seed can be ground and mixed with flour then used in making bread. Known as 'poor man's asparagus', the growing shoots can be tie together in bundles, cooked and eaten like asparagus. Considered to be a gourmet food, young flower buds can be sautéed in butter
A very easily grown plant, it tolerates considerable neglect and succeeds in most soils and situations. If the plant has some shelter it will provide a green crop throughout all but the harshest winter weather; in summer it will appreciate being watered in dry spells.
Sowing: Sow in spring or autumn.
Seeds are best sown in spring, but may also be sown in autumn. It is said to grow best in a sunny position, though in the summer the leaves will be of a better quality and have a milder flavour if it is grown in light shade.
Sowing Direct: Late spring or early summer
Sow directly where they are to grow, in good garden soil in late spring. Sow in 12mm (½in) deep drills, in rows 45cm (18in) apart. Lightly cover with soil and make sure the soil does not dry out. When seedlings appear, thin to 25cm (10in) apart.
To get an early start, sow in early spring into seed trays, 12mm (½in) deep cover with vermiculite and plant out in late spring 25cm (10in) apart when they are large enough to handle. Once established Good King Henry does not respond well to transplantation, so transplant seedlings while still quite small, once they have grown their first two true leaves into individual pots, and plant out into their permanent positions after the last expected frosts.
Good King Henry can be grown in containers. This perennial can reach about 60cm (24in) high, so you'll need a fairly large container of rich soil. Keep well watered and re-pot each spring into fresh compost.
Don’t expect too much in the first season. Just keep the plants regularly hoed and well watered and harvest just a few leaves from each plant for cooking. In its second autumn, cut down the foliage and mulch with peat, leaf mould or well-rotted compost.
New shoots will appear to harvest the following spring.
Division in spring, larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the summer or following spring.
It starts to mature very early on in the year. In April to June, harvest growing shoots, cook and eat like asparagus. After June leave the shoots to develop, eat the succulent young leaves and flowering stems in salads or cooked like spinach. The flowers can be sautéed in butter. Seed can be ground and mixed with flour then used in making bread. The seed is small but is easily harvested. It should be soaked in water overnight and thoroughly rinsed.
Pick and use straight away, it doesn’t store well in the fridge, but can be stored in the freezer. The plant is rich in iron, calcium and vitamins B&C.
Gold/green dyes can be obtained from the whole plant.
It has been used as a herbal medicine to alleviate stomach-ache. The seed is a gentle laxative that is suitable for children.
Chickens especially seem to have a special fondness for Good King Henry; one of its common names is "fat hen".
The root is used as a cough remedy for livestock such as sheep and goats.
Native to much of central and southern Europe, this popular herb dates back to Neolithic times. Good King Henry was so often cultivated at one time as a salad, it can still be found usually in one or more spots, at least in every village. In gardens, old ruins and churchyards, farmhouses and pastures, occasional in ports and around mills.
Although popular in medieval Britain, this plant was not named after Henry VIII, instead it assumed this title in Germany. The specific epithet bonus-henricus derives from the Central-European heathen fairy ‘Guter Heinrich’, rather than from the King of England.
Common names abound. They include: Markery, English Mercury, Mercury goosefoot, Perennial Goosefoot, Many-seeded Goosefoot, Oak-leaved goosefoot, Red goosefoot, Common orache, long-stalked orache, spear-leaved orache, Prickly saltwort, Fat Hen or Shoemakers' heels.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 500mg Average Seed Count 210 Seeds Common Name Chenopodium bonus-henricus (An Ancient Crop)
Poor-man's Asparagus, Lincolnshire Spinach.
Other Common Names All Good, Markery, Mercury, English Mercury, Mercury Goosefoot,
Perennial Goosefoot, Many-seeded Goosefoot, Oak-leaved Goosefoot, Red Goosefoot,
Common Orache, Long-stalked Orache, Spear-leaved Orache,
Prickly Saltwort, Fat Hen or Shoemakers
Family Chenopodiaceae Genus Chenopodium Species bonus-henricus Synonym IE. Praiseach bhráthar Hardiness Hardy Perennial Natural Flower Time May till August Height 60cm (24in) Spread 30cm (12in) Position Full sun or part shade Soil Fertile, Moist, Well-drained Time to Sow Seeds are best sown in spring, but may also be sown in autumn. Time to Harvest In April to June, harvest shoots.
After June eat the succulent young leaves and flowering stems