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Good King Henry

Edible Edible Autumn Autumn Spring Spring Summer Summer

One of the goosefoots, a good edible leafy vegetable in the Chenopodioideae (Latin = goosefoot) family which includes spinach, quinoa, orache, and around 22 other genuses. It produces prolific leaves and often grows to a metre tall. It has been present around human habitation since the bronze age, and was certainly cultivated in the medieval period up to the last century. 

Hedgerow Type
Common Names Good King Henry, Good King Henry, Poor man's asparagus, Perennial-goosefoot, Lincolnshire spinach, Mercury goosefoot, Agrown for foll-good
Scientific Name Blitum bonus-henricus
Season Start Jan
Season End
Please note that each and every hedgerow item you come across may vary in appearance to these photos.

Leaves

40-80mm triangles with toothed edges and horizontal spikes at the bottom of each leaf. Small waxy scales on the surface. 

Flowers

Tiny green balls on almost leafless spikes similar to dock.

Seeds

Tiny (same size as quinoa in the same family) brown balls similar to dock.

Stem

Tough grooved stem tapering towards tips. Up to 1m.

Habitat

Originally from the Alps, Good King Henry will grow wherever it gets a chance although it prefers partial shade. It can be found growing in the wild but is also cultivated in gardens.

Possible Confusion

Some of the Solonacea (nightshades) have similar leaves but are a lot more rounded. They also have much larger distinct petalled flowers rather than tiny green ones on a flower spike. Fruit likewise, the nightshades produce definite berries from 1 – 2cm, Good King Henry produces tiny seeds on the flower spike.

Taste

Similar to spinach, earthy and succulent.

Frequency

Very common.

Other Facts

A close relative of spinach use the leaves the same way or the fresh young shoots like asparagus. It gets into gardens via wild flower seeds and once established it can be very prolific. The origin of the name is lost in time, but apparently nothing to do with any King Henry!

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