Herb To Know: Good-King-Henry


| February/March 1994

Chenopodium bonus-henricus
• Family Chenopodiaceae
• Hardy perennial

Today, grocery stores throughout North America offer fresh produce all year round. Even where the selection is limited to cardboard carrots and limp, brown-tinged iceberg lettuce, the frozen food case holds a variety of nourishing vegetables. Still, as winter drags on, it’s only natural to develop a craving for something really fresh, perhaps as proof that spring is on the way at last. What a joy it is when the first tentative shoots of edible plants begin to prick through the soil. Spring greens are an ancient tradition that is well worth keeping alive, and Good-King-Henry (Cheno­pod­­­ium bonus-henricus) is an easy-to-grow herb rich in iron and vitamin C that blends well with such better-known potherbs as dandelions, nettles, and sorrel.

Good-King-Henry Recipe:  Mixed Spring Greens 

Good-King-Henry is native to Europe and was brought to North America by the early European colonists as a potherb. It now grows wild here and there in the northeastern United States and Canada.



Think of Good-King-Henry as a sort of perennial spinach, to which it is related; other chenopodiums include lamb’s-quarters (C. album), epazote (C. ambrosioides), and quinoa (C. quinoa). Stems up to 2 feet tall bear dark green, succulent, arrow-shaped leaves with smooth or wavy edges and a mealy undersurface. Spikes of tiny greenish flowers appear from May through September. In early spring, pencil-thick shoots push up from the fleshy, branching roots, and these are prized, especially in England, as a substitute for asparagus.

Good-King-Henry grows best in fertile, well-drained garden soil. It’s one of the few herbs that prefer partial shade. Buying a plant or two is an easy way to get started with this herb. Seeds are available but may be slow to germinate (established plants self-sow fairly readily, however). Stratifying the seeds (chilling them in a moist medium such as vermiculite) for a few weeks improves germination. Thin or transplant seedlings to 1 to 2 feet apart. Fertilize the plants occasionally during the growing season. Harvest leaves lightly and shoots not at all until plants are three years old. If you mulch the plants heavily in late fall with compost or leaf mold, the shoots will be white and especially tender. The leaves are most tender in spring, too. Established plants can be divided in early spring.



Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Get the latest on Natural Health and Sustainable Living with Mother Earth News!

Mother Earth News

Your friends at Mother Earth Living are committed to natural health and sustainable living. Unfortunately, the financial impact of COVID-19 has challenged us to find a more economical way to achieve this mission. We welcome you to our sister publication Mother Earth News. What you sought in the pages of Mother Earth Living can be found in Mother Earth News. For over 50 years, “The Original Guide to Living Wisely” has focused on organic gardening, herbal medicine, real food recipes, and sustainability. We look forward to going on this new journey with you and providing solutions for better health and self-sufficiency.

The impact of this crisis has no doubt affected every aspect of our daily lives. We will strive to be a useful and inspiring resource during this critical time and for years to come.

Best wishes,
Your friends at Mother Earth Living and Mother Earth News

Save Money & a Few Trees!

By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of Mother Earth News for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).


Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Classifieds