Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Good King Henry

1. I want to tell you about mercury – Lincolnshire spinach – or in some parts of the country Good King Henry. Mercury is pronounced marcury in Lincolnshire and used to be very common in gardens. My family have always grown and eaten it and I have quite a large bed in my garden; being perennial it needs little attention and no matter the weather it comes up. This year particularly after all the rain in the summer vegetables will be late and mercury will fill the gap when we’ve finished the brocolli, kale, etc., until the peas, beans, etc. are ready. We eat it like spinach – boiled – and then I like it hot or cold – also I love the flowerheads and sometimes strip the leaves off and eat as ‘poor man’s asparagus’. My grandmother used to tell me because it was so deep rooted it was full of iron and minerals. For many years I’ve thought it was probably responsible for my good resistance to colds and infection. I do enjoy it and eat a lot – more than the rest of the family [Washingborough, Lincolnshire, March 1994].

Image: Bubnell, Baslow, Derbyshire; July 2015.