| (Mercury; Wild spinach)
Wholesome potherb rich in iron, calcium and vitamin C. In use since Neolithic times, it was brought to Europe some 5,000 years ago and has naturalized there. Good King Henry forms clumps of dark green leaves, growing 60cm/2ft in height. One of the earliest spring greens, Good King Henry is an interesting example of a once-common food that has since been forgotten and is seldom cultivated, although it is a perennial and can still be found growing around abandoned homesteads. It was a typical ingredient of medieval vegetable soups from the 12th to the 16th centuries, combining with leeks, chard and bread in a tasty, vitamin-rich broth that sustained the peasant farmers in their labours. In the modern kitchen, shoots gathered when 12cm/5" high can be peeled, boiled and eaten like asparagus. Young tender leaves can be eaten cooked or added to salads like spinach, and the flower spikes can be steamed and buttered for a gourmet treat. Medicinally, it is a remedy for indigestion and constipation. It thrives in full or partial sun, but does well in part shade. Seeds may be slow to get going, but an established plant will self-seed if allowed to.