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Have you used Good King Henry?

 
gardener
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Good King Henry is often featured in lists of edible perennial plants, but I have found very few people saying they actually grow it and like it.

Here are some of the various things I've found written about it:

- Many people suggest it as a perennial edible, or say they plan to plant it, but I just haven't found much by people who eat it and like it.

- It is described as being harvested like asparagus (but my second year shoots were a leaf rosette, not a tight shoot)

- The book Bioshelter Market Garden mentions it as a salad ingredient in their spring mix (which would imply raw leaves, I think?) ... but:

- Stephen Barstow, as a featured author on Permies, said:

for me the taste of raw Good King Henry has earned it the name Bad King Henry in my book



- The most detailed info I've found is in the book Perennial Vegetables:

Good King Henry is a reliable, low-maintenance spinach relative adapted to most of the United States and Canada. It has been cultivated in Europe in the past as a cooking green and for its shoots, known as Lincolnshire asparagus, as well as for its edible seeds as a grain crop. The shoots were once a very popular vegetable in England. If given a rich soil with plenty of compost or rotted manure, it can produce shoots 20 days before asparagus and continue to do so until several weeks after the asparagus harvest is over. That’s a season of over three months! The leaves are eaten as a fine cooking green, although their flavor is a bit bitter and they are best mixed with other greens.



- And oddly enough, in an old Time-Life Herbs book:

Good King Henry can be grown Zones 5-8; and prefers partial shade to full sun. Seedlings are slow to appear, plant them 9 - 12 inches apart; but it is easier to divide root clumps of mature plants. They taste best in the spring; should grow 3 years before harvesting; if shoots are to be harvested like asparagus, mulch in fall with 4 or 5 inches of leaf mold or compost, shielding them from light.



A permies member did post this, which was encouraging, but he was 2-post wonder:

I love Good King Henry, a lovely perennial spinach. It reliably has produced for me 6 years running and is an early spring green. Nothing like spring omelettes with garlic mustard, chives and Good King Henry and some of last year's tomato sauce!



Other bits I've found:

- Some people have had difficulty germinating it. (But I had reasonable success with naturalistic stratification, planting it in a container outside in April during light snow. And now in my cold greenhouse, it is reseeding itself.)

- Some people have difficulty finding seeds. (I got seed from Fedco in the US.)

- Some people confuse it with Fat Hen (Chenopodium album, which is called lambsquarters in the US), or conjecture that it is just a bred up version of C. album, but to me it looks like quite a different species. It is perennial, the leaves are different, the overall plant shape is different, and the seeds are much bigger.

- I have always seen it identified as Chenopodium bonus-henricus but Wikipedia says that genetic research has revealed it is not in that genus, and since 2012 it is called Blitum bonus-henricus.

So if you've grown it or eaten it, please share your experience! I'm eager to hear.
 
master steward & author
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I grow it. But I haven't found a recipe I like for it yet.
 
master pollinator
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I struggle with this with many perennials that are supposed to take the place of some annual.  I love the idea of perennial food crops. I plant tree crops of course,  and fruits, nuts, and berries taste great and make sense to me.  Edible weeds and perennial plants that are rarely grown taste so inferior to me that I've largely given up on them except as novelties.  I'm going to keep trying,  but annuals are in no danger of being replaced by perennial substitutes anytime soon at my place.  Other than berries or tree crops,  asparagus is the only real perennial I grow to eat.
 
gardener
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One Yard Revolution
This great youtrube channel discusses growing and using Good King Henry


I managed to grab the ad at the beginning of the video I wanted to share.
Fortunately our community caught this and Dave has inserted the correct material.
Thank you Dave!
 
steward
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pollinator
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Just finished reading Perennial Vegetables today and was considering Good King Henry as a possible addition.  Glad to see this thread! I think its more likely that I will just keep using lambsquarter.  It's close enough to perennial and I know I like it.
 
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Growing & Using Good King Henry was published in 2015.  The 2021 update includes unique recipes.

https://g.co/kgs/1TmoJa
 
r ranson
master steward & author
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I'm thinking about pulling up my good king henery.  The chickens don't even eat it.  I haven't found a way to eat it I like.  I'm thinking of giving the space to some other plants.  
 
pollinator
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Taste wise Fat hen is so much better, and it's less hassle I think, as it is very happy to seed itself everywhere and all you have to do is keep the ones you want and let a couple go to seed.
 
pollinator
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+1 for Fat Hen as a tastier, nuttier spinach and much more palatable than GKH.  It grows quite often here, particularly on disturbed ground (be it alongside an allotment/bed or where construction work has happened). I nibble it raw, add it sparingly to salads or, probably wiser, cook it as a spinach. I say wiser because I think it is quite high in oxalates.
 
pollinator
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Maybe the problem with GKH and other old perennial crops in there modern world is that those of us in the "first world" chatting on the internet are not literally so starved for vegetables in early spring that we're happy to eat anything non-poisonous that grows out of the ground.  Ancestors weren't comparing it to their favorite greens, but just to whatever else was growing at the same time, as their winter food stores were running out.

So maybe it is not a vegetable for our times?
 
master gardener
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I’ll put a vote for GKH.
I quite like the immature flowering spikes, lightly steamed. I like the fact they’re perennial and grow really well for me. They seed  themselves a little bit, so make it easy to propagate into new areas, but only where there is a bit of bare soil. I’m also interested in trying the seeds. See this post from Backyard larder for some inspiration.
 
Luke Mitchell
pollinator
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Mk Neal wrote:Maybe the problem with GKH and other old perennial crops in there modern world is that those of us in the "first world" chatting on the internet are not literally so starved for vegetables in early spring that we're happy to eat anything non-poisonous that grows out of the ground.  Ancestors weren't comparing it to their favorite greens, but just to whatever else was growing at the same time, as their winter food stores were running out.



I definitely agree with this. I also think that our tastes and instinct to the benefits or detriments of various foodstuffs have been heavily affected by our modern diet; we are so used to high-fat, sweet foods that anything bitter has become rather unpalatable. I'm sure that our ancestors, even 150 years ago, would have had a much more perceptive sense of taste.
 
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