Good King Henry

(Chenopodium bonus-henricus) "King" seems to be intrusive; there is no mention of a king in the specific name, which just means "Good Henry". Perhaps it is meant to distinguish it from Malus henricus, Bad Henry, probably Dog's Mercury. Then again, it is the opinion of some that Henry is the 16th century German Guter Heinrich, the name of an elf with a knowledge of healing plants (Grigson. 1974). This plant is perfectly edible, and has been used as a food plant since Neolithic times (Mabey. 1972), and was actually cultivated in gardens right into the 19th century (C P Johnson). Evelyn said the tops could be eaten as "sparagus", but "'tis insipid enough". One of the many names given to it is Blite (Prior), or Bleets, as Tusser had it, from a word meaning 'insipid', justifying Evelyn's comment.

It has its medicinal virtues - in Gloucestershire, an infusion of the fresh leaves was drunk for bladder troubles; and ground up in water, it was a cure for scurvy (Porter. 1974). Gerard advised his readers that the leaves "bruised and layd upon green wounds or foule and old ulcers, doe scoure, mundifie and heale them". In other words, poultices made of the leaves cleansed and healed chronic sores.

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