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Good King Henry

Chenopodium bonus-henricus

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Amaranthaceae (Amaranth)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
150 centimetres tall
Fields, gardens, grassland, hedgerows, meadows, mountains, parks, riverbanks, roadsides, rocky places, seaside, towns, wasteland, waterside, woodland.

Green, 5 petals
Good King Henry produces inconspicuous, small greenish-white flowers arranged in clusters. The blooms are not ostentatious but add a delicate charm to the plant. The plant's regal appearance is further enhanced by its upright growth habit, contributing to its ornamental value. The flowers typically appear in late spring to early summer, creating a subtle yet elegant display. While not the primary feature of the plant, these unassuming flowers contribute to the overall aesthetic appeal of Good King Henry in garden settings across the UK.
Good King Henry produces small, rounded fruits that are typically green and inconspicuous. The fruits are often described as being seed-like and are contained within clusters. These seed-like structures house the plant's seeds and are not a prominent feature compared to the foliage. While the plant is not primarily grown for its fruit, the modest appearance of the seeds contributes to the overall life cycle of Good King Henry. The plant's focus is more on its edible leaves and adaptability in various habitats, making it a resilient and versatile addition to gardens across the UK.
The botanical name 'Chenopodium' is derived from the Greek for 'goose foot'. This is in reference to the shape of the leaves. The dark green, broad, succulent leaves are roughly triangular in shape with pointed lobes at their bases on either side. Alternate, long-stalked, entire margins.
Good King Henry is not particularly known for having a distinct or strong aroma. The plant is valued more for its culinary uses, particularly its edible leaves, rather than for any notable fragrance. The focus on Good King Henry is often on its adaptability, regal appearance, and nutritional value rather than its scent. Gardeners and enthusiasts appreciate it more for the visual appeal and culinary versatility it brings to landscapes and gardens in the UK, rather than any pronounced fragrance associated with its foliage or flowers.
Other Names:
English Mercury, Lincolnshire Spinach, Markery, Mercury Goosefoot, Perennial Goosefoot, Poor Man's Asparagus, Wild Spinach.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Chenopodium bonus-henricus, also known as Good King Henry, is a perennial plant in the Amaranthaceae family. It is native to Europe and Western Asia, and is known for its nutritious leaves and shoots that can be eaten as a vegetable, similar to spinach or asparagus. The plant has a tall, upright habit and can reach up to 1.5 meters in height, with green leaves and small, greenish-white flowers that bloom in the summer.

The leaves, shoots, and young seed pods of Good King Henry can be cooked and eaten as a vegetable, and are a rich source of vitamins and minerals. The plant is also high in protein, making it an important source of food for people and livestock. The plant is highly hardy, it is capable of growing in poor soil and in low light conditions.

It was once common in traditional gardens and farms, but has largely disappeared from cultivation as it is not commonly found in supermarkets or known to modern consumers. However, it's been experiencing a resurgence of interest in recent years as a wild food and a medicinal plant.


Good King Henry, also known as Chenopodium bonus-henricus, is a hardy perennial plant that belongs to the Chenopodiaceae family. Native to Europe and western Asia, this herb has been cultivated for centuries for its delicious and nutritious leaves and shoots. In this blog post, we will explore the history, uses, and cultivation of this remarkable plant.

History and Origins

Good King Henry has a long and interesting history, with evidence of its cultivation dating back to the Middle Ages. It was once a popular vegetable in Europe, particularly in Germany, France, and England, where it was grown in gardens and small farms. In fact, it was so beloved that it was sometimes referred to as "English Mercury" or "Poor-Man's Asparagus."


The leaves and young shoots of the Good King Henry plant are edible and have a delicious flavor similar to spinach or asparagus. They can be cooked in a variety of ways, including steamed, boiled, sautéed, or added to soups and stews. The plant also produces small, green flower buds that can be pickled and used as a garnish or added to salads.

In addition to its culinary uses, Good King Henry has several medicinal properties. The plant is rich in vitamins A and C, as well as iron and other minerals. It has been used traditionally to treat a variety of ailments, including digestive problems, anemia, and skin conditions.


Good King Henry is a hardy and easy-to-grow plant that thrives in a variety of soil types and climates. It prefers well-drained soil and full sun or partial shade. The plant is propagated by seed and can be sown directly in the ground in early spring. It is also possible to propagate the plant by dividing the roots in the fall or early spring.

Once established, Good King Henry requires minimal care and attention. The plant is drought-tolerant and can survive long periods of dry weather. It is also resistant to many pests and diseases, making it a low-maintenance crop for home gardeners.

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Good King Henry has also been used for its dyeing properties. The plant produces a yellow-green dye that can be extracted from the leaves and stems. This dye was once used by European textile industries to color wool and silk.

Aside from its practical uses, Good King Henry also has some cultural significance. In traditional European folklore, the plant was believed to have magical powers, and it was sometimes used in love spells and other rituals. In England, it was sometimes used as a symbol of resurrection and was associated with Easter celebrations.

Despite its long history and many uses, Good King Henry is not as well-known as some other herbs and vegetables. However, it is gaining popularity among home gardeners and chefs who are interested in exploring new and unique flavors. If you are looking to add a new crop to your garden or try a new ingredient in your cooking, Good King Henry may be a great choice. Not only is it easy to grow and maintain, but it also offers a variety of culinary and medicinal benefits.

It's worth noting that while Good King Henry is a hardy plant that is easy to grow, it can be invasive in some areas. Therefore, it's important to be mindful of this and to plant it in a controlled area, such as a garden bed or container, to prevent it from spreading to unwanted areas.

In terms of nutrition, Good King Henry is a great source of vitamins and minerals. Its leaves contain high levels of vitamins A and C, as well as iron, calcium, and potassium. These nutrients are important for maintaining good health and preventing nutrient deficiencies.

Finally, Good King Henry is a sustainable and environmentally-friendly crop. It requires minimal water and fertilizer inputs, making it a low-impact plant to grow. Additionally, it can be grown organically without the use of pesticides or other chemicals, making it a healthy and eco-friendly choice for both home gardeners and commercial growers.

Another interesting aspect of Good King Henry is that it is a great companion plant for other crops. It has been shown to repel some pests, such as aphids, while attracting beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings. It can also improve soil health by adding organic matter and nutrients to the soil through its deep root system. This makes it a great choice for interplanting with other crops, or for planting in between rows to help improve overall soil health and promote healthy plant growth.

In addition to its culinary and medicinal uses, Good King Henry also has some cultural and historical significance. In medieval times, it was considered a valuable plant and was grown in monastery gardens for its medicinal properties. In England, it was sometimes referred to as "Lincolnshire spinach" because it was a common vegetable in that region.

Overall, Good King Henry is a versatile and valuable plant that deserves more recognition. It is easy to grow, highly nutritious, and has a variety of culinary and medicinal uses. It is also a sustainable and environmentally-friendly crop that can improve soil health and support beneficial insects. Whether you're an experienced gardener or just starting out, Good King Henry is definitely a plant worth considering for your garden.

25 Good King Henry Facts

  1. Ancient Herb: Good King Henry, also known as "Lincolnshire Spinach" or "Perennial Goosefoot," has been cultivated since ancient times and was a popular vegetable in medieval gardens.

  2. Nutrient-Rich Leaves: The leaves of Good King Henry are not only edible but also rich in essential nutrients such as vitamins A and C, as well as minerals like calcium and iron.

  3. Perennial Goodness: Unlike its annual relatives, Good King Henry is a perennial plant, meaning it can survive and produce foliage year after year without needing to be replanted.

  4. Hardy Survivor: This plant is incredibly hardy and can withstand harsh growing conditions, making it suitable for a variety of climates and soil types.

  5. Edible Shoots: In addition to its leaves, the young shoots of Good King Henry are also edible, providing a versatile and tasty addition to salads and other dishes.

  6. Medieval Culinary Use: Good King Henry was a common ingredient in medieval European cuisine, appreciated for its nutritional value and unique flavor.

  7. Botanical Family: It belongs to the Chenopodiaceae family, which also includes other edible plants like spinach and beets.

  8. Floral Clusters: The plant produces small greenish-white flowers in clusters, adding a touch of charm to gardens where it grows.

  9. Wild Edible: Good King Henry can sometimes be found growing in the wild, particularly in meadows and along roadsides.

  10. Attracts Wildlife: The plant attracts pollinators like bees and butterflies, contributing to the biodiversity of its growing environment.

  11. Adaptable Companion Plant: It's known to be an excellent companion plant, as it can help repel certain pests while providing a beneficial microclimate for nearby crops.

  12. Historical Namesake: The common name "Good King Henry" is believed to be a reference to either King Henry IV or King Henry VIII of England, although the exact origin is unclear.

  13. Grows Well in Shade: Good King Henry is known for thriving in partial shade, making it a suitable choice for gardens with limited sunlight.

  14. Traditional Medicinal Uses: In traditional herbal medicine, various parts of the plant were used to treat ailments such as digestive issues and respiratory problems.

  15. Mild Spinach Flavor: The taste of Good King Henry is often described as similar to spinach but milder, providing a pleasant addition to salads and cooked dishes.

  16. Regal Appearance: The plant has an upright and elegant growth habit, adding a regal and ornamental touch to garden landscapes.

  17. Low Maintenance: Once established, Good King Henry requires minimal care and is relatively resistant to pests and diseases.

  18. European Culinary Heritage: The plant has a rich culinary heritage in Europe, particularly in regions like Scandinavia, where it has been historically used in various traditional dishes.

  19. Culinary Versatility: Good King Henry can be enjoyed in a variety of culinary preparations, including soups, stews, omelets, and as a side dish.

  20. Spring Harvest: The young leaves are often harvested in spring when they are most tender and flavorful.

  21. Root Edibility: While less common, the roots of Good King Henry are also edible and can be cooked and eaten in a manner similar to potatoes.

  22. Botanical Classification: Its scientific name is Chenopodium bonus-henricus, reflecting its classification within the Chenopodium genus.

  23. Prehistoric Connection: Some archaeological evidence suggests that Good King Henry may have been consumed by prehistoric cultures, further highlighting its long history of human use.

  24. Cold Tolerance: Good King Henry is known for its ability to tolerate colder temperatures, making it a reliable crop in cooler climates.

  25. Biodiversity Supporter: As a perennial plant with a long flowering period, Good King Henry contributes to biodiversity by providing food and habitat for various insects throughout the growing season.


Good King Henry filmed at Kentmere in the Lake District on the 1st June 2023.


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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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