Spring greens are an ancient tradition that is well worth keeping alive, and Good-King-Henry (Cheno­pod­­­ium bonus-henricus) is an easy-to-grow herb rich in iron and vitamin C that blends well with such better-known potherbs as dandelions, nettles, and sorrel.

Think of Good-King-Henry as a sort of perennial spinach, to which it is related. Stems up to 2 feet tall bear dark green, succulent, arrow-shaped leaves with smooth or wavy edges and a mealy undersurface. Spikes of tiny greenish flowers appear from May through September. In early spring, pencil-thick shoots push up from the fleshy, branching roots, and these are prized as a substitute for asparagus.

Good-King-Henry grows best in fertile, well-drained garden soil. It’s one of the few herbs that prefer partial shade.

Some consider Good-King-Henry to be milder than spinach, at least if picked in early spring; it tends to become bitter later in the season. Spring greens generally include a little of this and a little of that, though–whatever is available among the potherbs–so you can balance tanginess with blandness, throw in a little sorrel for its acid bite perhaps, and steam it all gently and briefly until just tender. Then enjoy, and think spring!

Good King Henry contains some oxalic acid, but cooking reduces that. People who are prone to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should generally be careful with foods containing oxalic acid.

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