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May 17, 2013

Good King Henry

I love vegetables, gardening, and the first lovelies of spring. BUT I confess to being out of the loop about a perennial plant known as Good King Henry (Chenopodium bonus-henricus).

Good King Henry
image: goodfoodshops.blogspot.com

Native to Europe but brought to America by the early colonists, Good King Henry is known by a variety of names such as Goosefoot, English Mercury, Fat Hen (good for chicken feed evidently), Poor Man’s Asparagus, Smearwort (makes a poultice) and All Good, since you can use the entire plant for something. There is also, legend has it, a sprite-like helpful spirit called Good King Henry who, it is said, will help with domestic chores for a saucer of cream! Those were the days before minimum wage went up.

A member of the amaranth family like Quinoa, and a relative to Lamb’s Quarters, the first shoots are prepared like asparagus. The later leaves are very much like calaloo or…think of GKH as a perennial spinach. The seed of this versatile herb is hard to germinate, but the plants can be had from a variety of sources.

It grows easily in Maine in fertile soil with good drainage. It’s best not to harvest the leaves heavily until the third year, much like asparagus. The established plants can be divided eventually. I believe I need a few of these fantastic plants in my garden!

Thanks to my friend, Joanna Linden of Fedco Seeds, for the shout out about GKH!

SIMPLY PREPARED SPRING GREENS/USING THE POT HERB GOOD KING HENRY
Larua Cabot, Laura Cabot Catering, Waldoboro

Take as many leaves as you dare to from your established plant and rinse them carefully.

Saute several chopped spring onions in olive oil in a medium sized skillet.

Add the whole or chopped leaves of GKH, a dash of salt or soy, and saute until wilted yet bright green.

A grind of fresh pepper and you’ve got a side dish high in many important nutrients. This pot herb mixes well with other spring greens like nettle, wild cress, dandelion, lamb’s quarters and so on.

Laura Cabot is an MF&L columnist and blogger, a French trained chef with a long career as a chef/restaurant owner, and president of Laura Cabot Catering in Waldoboro.

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