Other common names:
Blite, Lincolnshire Spinach, Wild Spinach, All-good, Goosefoot, Mercury and Poor-man’s Asparagus.
What are my special features?
Good King Henry is a perennial plant native to Southern Europe and spread further by the Romans. The plant grows around 75cm high having a long stalk with arrow shaped leaves. It is a semi-wild plant, being cultivated as well as being found in the wild.
The flavour resembles spinach and becomes increasingly bitter as the season progresses. The leaves, stalks and flower buds are edible. The leaves can be boiled, steamed or eaten raw in salads. The young shoots and stalks can be picked before they go hollow and steamed or boiled, eaten like asparagus, while the flower buds can be, for example, sautéed in butter.
What is my history?
The plants name is derived originally from the German, “Guter Henrick” and the existence of so many alternative names suggests that the plant has been known in Britain for a long time. As a crop, Good King Henry was a feature of many Tudor gardens and also played an importance role within the Anglo-Saxon diet. Historically the crop was valuable to poorer countryside workers and Scottish crofters who often turned to the crop for a source of nourishment after field clearances.
Various historical records note that Lincolnshire farmers grew the crop extensively.
Why am I forgotten?
With improved garden varieties of beet and spinach being widely available semi-wild plants such as the Good King Henry received little notice within the kitchen.
Although Good King Henry is sold in garden shops and also found in the wild, the use within food is highly localised, occurring principally in Lincolnshire.
Don’t lose me… cook me!