About Good King Henry
Good King Henry is also called English mercury or just mercury (sometimes ‘markery’ in Lincolnshire) It is also known as Lincolnshire spinach, all-good, poor-man’s asparagus, perennial goosefoot, and mercury goosefoot. There is some evidence that it has probably been in continuous use in Britain from Medieval times. Although its popularity died out in the last century its use is still within the living memory of communities especially in Lincolnshire. It makes a fantastic addition to any perennial vegetable garden and also supports many insects especially moths.
How to Grow Good King Henry
SOW AUTUMN OR SPRING Good King Henry can be grown from seed and mature plants can also be divided. To grow from seed it is best to try a few different methods as seed can be erratic to germinate. Although seeds are not dormant, it is best to try multiple sowings and methods, giving some seeds stratification and others a normal spring sowing when it warms up. Below are various methods you can try. Mature plants will readily scatter their seeds and you will get some seedlings appearing that have self sown.
Sow during autumn in pots in a cold frame and leave the seeds to naturally germinate in the spring after a period of cold
Sow direct in autumn in a well prepared bed and allow the seeds to germinate naturally when conditions allow
Sow seeds in spring in small trays 1-2mm deep and place in a plastic bag in the fridge for 3 weeks, remove from fridge and allow to germinate in an unheated greenhouse
Sow seeds undercover in spring without any stratification and leave in an unheated greenhouse to germinate
Sow direct in spring in a well prepared bed and allow the seeds to germinate naturally when conditions allow
It is fairly unfussy about soils but prefers nitrogen-rich, fairly well-drained soil. Ours grow well in a spot that has part sun, part dappled shade during the day. Plants can grow up to 1m tall and need a spacing of about 60cm. Plants die right back in autumn and new shoots emerge very early in the new year. These are some of the most resilient plants we grow, free of pests and diseases and survivors of drought and freezing temperatures. Hardy down to about -20 degrees C.
How to harvest and eat Good King Henry
Harvest the young leaves from early spring to mid-summer and the young unopened flowering shoots from mid-spring to early summer and cook like asparagus. Use as spinach in any dish. Leaves can be steeped in salt water for 30 mins and then rinsed before cooking. They can be steamed, sautéed, stir fried and taste great in spiced dishes. Some people complain that the leaves are too bitter for them, but given the right treatment they can be a very tasty source of abundant greens. You can cut the plants back in the summer to get a flush of new growth. Interesting research is being done into Good King Henry seed as a potential perennial grain crop, harvesting it in a similar way to Quinoa.