Good King Henry – characteristics, cultivation and use

Good King Henry
Good King Henry - By Thomas Mathis - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Good King Henry is still known to many older people as excellent wild vegetables. The locally occurring weed can be used as spinach, enriches the kitchen quite well and is characterized by a high vitamin and iron content. However, the well-known Good King Henry is today, due to the intensive cultivation of land. In its existence endangered and should not be collected wild.

Profile of Good King Henry:

Scientific name: Blitum bonus-henricus

Plant family: amaranths (Amaranthaceae)

Other names: Poor-man’s Asparagus, Perennial Goosefoot, Lincolnshire Spinach, Markery, English mercury, mercury goosefoot

Sowing time / Planting time: March – April

Flowering period: May – October

Harvest time: March – October

Useful plant parts: leaves, flowers, buds, seeds, shoots

Location: sunny to partially shaded locations on wind-protected locations

Soil quality: nutrient-rich soils

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: rheumatism, constipation, iron deficiency

Use as aromatic herb: leaves as spinach, seeds as flour

Plant characteristics and classification of Good King Henry

Origin and occurrence of Good King Henry

The Good King Henry is a plant native to Central and Southern Europe that can be found today in many parts of the world. It is an integral part of the local flora in the north to the Scandinavian lowlands as well as in western parts of Russia. In North America, the plant is often cultivated, which is why it is wild in many parts of the country. In mountainous areas it is often found at altitudes up to 2,000 meters (6,500 ft).

Good King Henry is found mainly in nitrogen-rich locations with fresh soils, meaning soils with moderate moisture content. It makes only small demands to the soil. In nature, the Good King Henry grows mostly on roadsides, fallow land and on walls.

In some countries Good King Henry is considered endangered, e.g Germany.

Plant order of Good King Henry

In the botanical classification the Good King Henry (Blitum bonus henricus) belongs to the amaranths family. The plant is related to the genuine spinach, arrach or tumbleweed. In the closer assignment of the Good King Henry belongs to the genus of Blitum, which today counts twelve species.

Often the plant is still found under its old botanical name Chenopodium bonus henricus, which is now outdated.

Characteristics of the Good King Henry


Good King Henry is a perennial herbaceous plant that can reach heights of growth between 60 and 90 cm (24 and 36 in). The fleshy and mostly beige root can reach a diameter of up to 2 cm (0.8 in). It is little to broadly branched, has only a few fine roots and can protrude up to 50 cm (20 in) in the ground.


The leaves show an almost triangular shape with a slightly wavy leaf margin. The length of the leaves usually varies between 4 and 12 cm (1.6 and 4.8 in), with the lower leaves being larger than the upper ones. Striking is the long petiole that can grow up to 4 cm (1.6 in) long. The leaves are arranged alternately on slightly hairy stems.


The flowers of Good King Henry are usually expected between early May to mid-October. During this time, panicle-like flower spikes, with greenish to reddish flower balls, form. Depending on the location of the flower, Good King Henry forms hermaphrodite or female flowers.


The fruit maturity of the flowers is expected from about mid-July. Good King Henry then continuously forms new flowers as well as new seed heads, each with single-seeded nut fruits. Each individual seed contains a well-rounded fruit casing. The seeds themselves are slightly grooved and usually dark brown to almost black in color.

Good King Henry flowering
Good King Henry flowering – by Enrico Blasutto – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Good King Henry – cultivation and care


The Good King Henry requires a sunny to half shady location on fresh, nutrient-rich and humus loamy soil. Once rooted, it can grow on the same bed for many years.


From the end of March on, you can sow Good King Henry directly in the bed. Alternatively, sowing between August and October is possible. The seeds germinate better when exposed to lower temperatures (5 to 10 °C / 41 to 50 °F) for several weeks. In the bed, a row spacing of 40 to 60 cm (16 to 24 in) and in the row of 20 to 35 cm (8 to 14 in) is recommended. In the second year after sowing, the harvest is higher than in the first. Alternatively, you can sow the seeds in pots from September to early April, which you put outside.


From time to time, fertilize the areas with composted material and ensure even soil moisture. Also, loosen the soil regularly by chopping and removing the weeds.


Good King Henry is dependent on fresh soil. On prolonged periods of heat without precipitation, an intensive water supply is necessary, waterlogging should be avoided. The soil should never dry out completely, as it can quickly lead to diseases or even the death of the plant.

Diseases and pests

With good care an attack of pests is not to be expected. An insufficient supply of water and too small planting distances, however, favor the infestation of powdery mildew. Inadequate nitrogen supply, which often occurs on sandy soils, the leaves color yellowish and begin to curl. In such cases, a mineral nitrogen fertilizer should be used to quickly feed nutrients.


As a native wild vegetable, the Good King Henry is considered frost tolerant and hardy. Special measures do not have to be taken. If you cover the plants in the winter with leaves or straw, they shoot premature and you can harvest very soon. If you earth up the plants, you can even harvest the bleached shoots before asparagus season and use them like this.

Use of Good King Henry

You can harvest the young shoots and leaves before flowering. The spicy leaves, which contain a lot of vitamin C, potassium and iron and provitamin A, can be steamed like spinach or added to raw salads or wild herb smoothies. As they age, the leaves become bitter as the oxalic acid content increases.

Good King Henry in the kitchen

In the past, Good King Henry was considered an excellent food plant, which was mainly prepared as wild vegetables by the poorer population. Due to its high vitamin, iron and mineral content, it was an important crop in many regions of Central Europe, which helped to keep diseases like scurvy at bay.

As a wild vegetable, the Good King Henry can still be used today in many ways.

The leaves of Good King Henry taste best before flowering. They can be used as spinach, raw as a salad and in a smoothie or cooked in soups and for vegetable fillings. Small chopped leaves are very suitable for filling. So tortellini, gnocchi, potato pockets or even pizza can be filled. Also, classic dishes such as egg and potatoes as well as fish and lamb dishes with the leaves as vegetables can be prepared. Here, either the large leaves can be directly steamed or prepared similar to real spinach with cream.

Thicker stems and shoots are prepared as asparagus. Buddy inflorescences are a good substitute for broccoli.

In the early autumn, the seeds of Good King Henry are ready for harvest. They are cooked in plenty of salted water and seasoned as a filling for tomatoes or peppers.

The flowers or the young flower buds can be prepared similar to asparagus. Alternatively, chopped finely can also be used as an ingredient in vegetable salads or wild herb salad.

Good King Henry as a medicinal herb

As a medicinal plant, Good King Henry plays today as then only a minor role. It certainly contains some interesting ingredients that can be used naturopathic. However, much more effective medicinal herbs are usually available.

In the Middle Ages and the early modern period, the Good King Henry was occasionally used for the treatment of inflammatory skin complaints, ulcers or abscesses. Also, as a worm treatment agent, the plant was used here and there in folk medicine.

Today, the Good King Henry is due to its vulnerable status mostly only as wild vegetables. However, the foxtail plant contains active substances such as saponins, some flavonoids such as quercetin and rutin, as well as phytosterols. In addition, the leaves and shoots of the plant are rich in vitamins and iron. These ingredients have v.a. the following effects on our organism.

Good King Henry can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • constipation
  • chronic cough
  • influenza infections or cold
  • iron deficiency
  • outer wounds
  • rheumatism

Medicinal properties

  • anti-inflammatory
  • expectorant
  • partly antiviral
  • strengthening
  • wound-healing

For badly healing wounds, inflammatory skin diseases or abscesses folk medicine recommends laying fresh leaves or envelopes from the broth of Good King Henry. However, it is not recommended performing self-treatment on fresh wounds, as contamination on the leaves can lead to worsening or further inflammation.

Side effects

The raw plant components sometimes contain high levels of oxalic acid, which make absorption of minerals and iron difficult.


Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

Buy Good King Henry – What is there to pay attention to?

Some manufacturers offer seed from late breeding as well as fresh plants in pots. The prices for the seeds are often a bit more expensive than for known and commonly used plants. However, the expenses are usually worthwhile for those who want to have some variety in the kitchen.

Gardeners, who can spare a place in their garden, do biodiversity a great favor. One to two square meters are usually sufficient to give the plant enough space to reproduce itself.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.