Sustainability made simple

Good King Henry: How to Grow, Harvest & Cook the Healthy “Weed”

good king henry
Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / ponce_photography

Good King Henry is a beautiful addition to any garden. We’ll show you how to grow, harvest and cook this iron- and vitamin C-rich “weed” to its full potential.

If you’ve never heard of Good King Henry, it is an edible, herbaceous perennial known as “wild spinach” or “poor man’s asparagus.” While it may look like just another garden plant, it turns out that it’s packed with iron, vitamin C, calcium and even vitamin B. These nutritional benefits make it the perfect addition to any garden, including your own.

Thankfully, the growing, harvesting and cooking processes are all easy. All you need is yourself, your seeds and your garden. Below, we’ll dive deeper into how you can nurture the plant through every stage of the process. You’ll be an expert in no time!

How to Grow Good King Henry

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a beginner, you should be able to grow Good King Henry. We’ll break the process down into manageable steps so that you can understand what this fantastic plant needs.

Consider the following when working with Good King Henry:

  • Soil type: Fertile, moist, well-drained soils with plenty of organic matter are best. However, it grows well in most soils, so you don’t have to be too strict.
  • Placement: This plant enjoys partially shady areas.
  • Season: Early summer is a great time to plant your seeds. If you’re sowing them indoors, you can start as early as spring.
  • Seed care: Be sure to refrigerate your seeds for several weeks before planting. This will help with the germination process.

Once you’ve chosen a good spot, you can get to work.

How to grow Good King Henry:

  1. Plant your seeds ¼-inch deep in your soil at least 12 inches apart.
  2. Leave 18 inches between each row if you’re planting many seeds.
  3. Water regularly to keep the soil moist, as this plant prefers moist conditions.
  4. Ensure you can provide shade to your Good King Henry when temperatures reach above 75°F.

How to Harvest Good King Henry

Good King Henry should take around a year to grow to its maximum height. This is usually the best time to harvest the plant. All you have to do is wait until the leaves have grown to an edible size. It is a relatively straightforward process, but there are a few tips you should keep in mind when harvesting:

  • You may find that the leaves are bitter after your plant has bolted or when the leaves are older. Therefore, it’s best to harvest before this happens, usually in late spring or the beginning of autumn.
  • You can harvest Good King Henry’s stems and leaves.
  • New shoots should be harvested between the middle of spring to the beginning of summer.
  • Ensure that your plant has matured enough and has six or more leaves.
  • Allow for the younger leaves of the plant to mature before harvesting them.
  • Shoots can be cut at any point.

Following these tips should allow you to get the best quality and flavor from your leaves. It will also help to minimize the amount of food waste you produce, which often ends up in landfills that release harmful gases such as methane, which contributes to global warming.

You can also try companion planting, which may help attract some beneficial insects to your garden.

How Do You Cook Good King Henry?

Just like harvesting, cooking Good King Henry is relatively simple. The leaves, shoots and flowers can all be cooked, meaning you can utilize the entire plant without wasting anything. However, if there is a part of the plant that you don’t want to eat, you can always try composting it.

How to cook Good King Henry:

  • Leaves: You can boil, steam, or saute the leaves on their own or as part of a meal. Boil them for at least two minutes. While you can eat them raw in very small amounts, it’s always better to cook them due to their high oxalate content (oxalate can cause kidney stones when eaten in excess). Make sure to wash the leaves before cooking to rinse off any dirt.
  • Shoots: The shoots of the plant can be steamed or boiled.
  • Flowers: Saute the flowers alone or with seasoning.

Storage: Good King Henry should last in the fridge for five days. It can also be frozen. 

A great way to cook with this plant is to incorporate it into your recipes. Some people even find it a great alternative to spinach, hence its other name, “wild spinach.” This makes it a great option for stir-fries, soups and more.

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