The leaves and seeds of all members of this genus are more or less edible. However, many of the species in this genus contain saponins, though usually in quantities too small to do any harm. Although toxic, saponins are poorly absorbed by the body and most pass straight through without any problem. They are also broken down to a large extent in the cooking process. Saponins are found in many foods, such as some beans. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish[K].
The plants also contain some oxalic acid, which in large quantities can lock up some of the nutrients in the food. However, even considering this, they are very nutritious vegetables in reasonable quantities. Cooking the plants will reduce their content of oxalic acid. People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition
Young leaves - raw or cooked
. The leaves wilt quickly after picking and so they need to be used as soon after harvesting as possible
. They can be used as a potherb
. The leaves are best in spring and early summer, the older leaves become tough and bitter
. The raw leaves should only be eaten in small quantities, see the notes above on toxicity. Young leaves can be chopped and used as a small part of mixed salads, though we are not enamoured by their flavour[K]. The cooked leaves make an acceptable spinach substitute, but are best mixed with nicer leaves[K]. The leaves are a good source of iron
Young flowering shoots - cooked. When grown on good soil, the shoots can be as thick as a pencil. When about 12cm long, they are cut just under the ground, peeled and used like asparagus. A very pleasant spring vegetable[K]. The plant is sometimes blanched by excluding the light in order to produce a longer and more succulent shoot, though this practice also reduces the quantity of vitamins in the shots[264, K].
Young flower buds - cooked. Considered to be a gourmet food, though they are rather small and harvesting any quantity takes quite a while[K].
Seed - ground and mixed with flour then used in making bread etc. The seed is small and fiddly but is easily harvested[K]. It should be soaked in water overnight and thoroughly rinsed before it is used in order to remove any saponins[K].
Gold/green dyes can be obtained from the whole plant
The herb is emollient, laxative and vermifuge
. This remedy should not be used by people suffering from kidney complaints or rheumatism
A poultice of the leaves has been used to cleanse and heal chronic sores, boils and abscesses.
The seed is a gentle laxative that is suitable for children
Seed - sow spring in a cold frame. Germination can be slow, but usually a high percentage will germinate[K]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and plant out into their permanent positions in the summer.
Division in spring
. Very easy, larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the summer or following spring.
Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Chenopodium bonus-henricus. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.
Prefers a fertile humus rich soil in a sunny position
. The plant produces a better quality harvest in the summer if it is grown in light shade[264, K]. A very easily grown plant, it tolerates considerable neglect and succeeds in most soils and situations[16, 33, K].
Good King Henry was at one time frequently cultivated in the garden as a perennial vegetable, but it has fallen out of favour and is seldom grown at present
. About thirty plants can produce a good supply of food for four people
Problems, pests & diseases
Associations & Interactions
There are no interactions listed for Chenopodium bonus-henricus. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.
Polycultures & Guilds
There are no polycultures listed which include Chenopodium bonus-henricus.
This table shows all the data stored for this plant.
Material uses & Functions
Native Climate Zones
Adapted Climate Zones
Native Geographical Range
Root Zone Tendancy
? Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London. ISBN 0-7513-020-31 (1995-00-00)
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? 3.03.1 Mabey. R. Food for Free. Collins ISBN 0-00-219060-5 (1974-00-00)
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? 11.011.1 Phillips. R. & Foy. N. Herbs Pan Books Ltd. London. ISBN 0-330-30725-8 (1990-00-00)
? 12.012.1 Vilmorin. A. The Vegetable Garden. Ten Speed Press ISBN 0-89815-041-8 ()
? 13.013.1 Bianchini. F., Corbetta. F. and Pistoia. M. Fruits of the Earth. ()
? 14.014.114.214.3 Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications ISBN 0-9628087-0-9 (1990-00-00)
? 15.015.1 Grae. I. Nature's Colors - Dyes from Plants. MacMillan Publishing Co. New York. ISBN 0-02-544950-8 (1974-00-00)
? 16.016.1 Ewart. A. J. Flora of Victoria. ()
? Simons. New Vegetable Growers Handbook. Penguin ISBN 0-14-046-050-0 (1977-00-00)
? Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim (1959-00-00)
? Clapham, Tootin and Warburg. Flora of the British Isles. Cambridge University Press (1962-00-00)
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