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Eastern Shore Food Lab

Chenopodium bonus-henricus - Good King Henry

Wild grown and cold tolerant, this substitute to spinach can give you a much fresher alternative to store-bought greens.

Scientific Name: Chenopodium bonus-henricus
Common Name: Good King Henry, wild spinach, red goosefoot, perennial goosefoot
Plant Family: Chenopodiaceae

Etymology: Open to debate, theorized to be named after King Henry IV of France

Edible Parts

Young leaves, shoots, and flowers are all edible and can be eaten and prepared raw, or cooked. The young leaves can be prepared in the same way as spinach. The young shoots can be grilled and served like asparagus, and the flowers can be prepared like smaller version of broccoli.

Historic Uses

Can be used as a gentle laxative, safe for children. It also has been used to cleanse chronic sores and other chronic skin irritations.

Habitat

Native to Europe before being introduced to America by early settlers. It does not grow well on roadsides and borders of farms from North-East United States into Canada.

How to Identify

Is a perennial plant with large green leaves. Grows between 1 foot up to 11 feet tall. Flowers between May and July. The species has both female and male parts, with long stalks growing from the leaves who stay towards the bottom of the plant.

Additional Information

The plant contains a high quantity of oxalic acid, which can be diminished through cooking. However, people with kidney stones, arthritis, gout, or rheumatism should be careful as eating the plant can aggravate the illness.

Planting Considerations

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-8
  • Native Range: Middle and Northern Europe
  • Forest Garden Layer: herbaceous
  • Permaculture functions: food, medicine
  • Soil texture: Can tolerate all soil types and all soil pHs, prefers moist soil.
  • Height: 1 – 11 feet
  • Spread: small spread
  • Growth rate: medium growth rate
  • Sun: full sun
  • Bloom: yellow flowers
  • Attracts: rabbits, bees, insects, deer
  • Tolerates: sandy soil, rocky soil, clay soil, all pHs, cold, frost
  • Drawbacks: cannot tolerate shade

Sources