Good King Henry

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

good King Henry Chenopodium bonus-henricus, otherwise known as allgood, a plant of the family Chenopodiaceae, whose members include also quinoa, epazote, and several kinds of goosefoot. It is found widely in the temperate zones of Eurasia and serves mainly as a potherb, although the flower clusters are eaten and young shoots can be prepared like asparagus.

The English name comes from the German one, which had a complicated origin involving another, related but toxic, plant which was called bïser Heinrich (bad Henry) and from which the good plant had to be distinguished. The ‘King’ in the English name is an interpolation made in England. Names such as Allgut come from the Latin tota bona of the early herbalists, but it is not clear why they gave such a flattering name to a plant which is of no great culinary or medical distinction.