Blitum bonus-henricus Open-pollinated perennial, Zone 3-9, also known as Lincolnshire Spinach and Fat Hen. Used as a potherb, one of the first greens of spring and one of the last of fall. Ancient plant used in festive meals, in meat dishes and as a side dish, very popular in Europe before it was supplanted by spinach.
Not named for any specific king, instead Henry comes from the germanic haganrich (literally ‘king of the hedge,’ supposedly a name for a gremlin with goose’s feet that helps around the house and puts things where they belong. I could use one of those!)
Considered a great delicacy. Gather shoots while they are still tender at about 5" high, peel and boil, then use like asparagus. Or harvest the dark green arrow-shaped leaves like and use spinach. Beloved by chickens, both for the greens and the oil-rich seeds.
Prefers rich soil in semi-shady areas, though will grow in full sun. Stratify seeds: fluctuation of high and low temperatures aids germination. Direct sow in spring or fall or transplant very young seedlings in spring. Once established the plants don’t like transplanting. Requires a year of growth before plants can be harvested. If left uncut, center stalks grow to 2½'. ①
3096 Good King Henry
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Days to maturity are from direct seeding.
Culture: When to harvest greens? Research from trials conducted in England and Kenya showed looseleaf lettuce, red chard and arugula harvested in the evening had a longer shelf life than when picked in the morning.