When Hannah from London Herb Garden presented me with The Kitchen Garden blog this week I was hugely excited. A herb a) I had never heard of and b) I’d never cooked with. I love learning about new things; so this piece has been an absolute delight and to celebrate my new find I’ve taken an old classic recipe and incorporated this fascinating herb for good measure.
Good King Henry is a plant which has sustained Brits for centuries, but once fell so far out of favour it was only used to feed hens. Luckily, the herb, and its spinach-like leaves, is back on the scene appearing on menus and plates. And it is about time, the herb is a perennial (its comes back year after year) and requires very little maintenance. In fact if you have come across it, it is likely to have been growing wild or as a weed, as it grows so freely in our climate. This makes it a perfect plant for a beginner gardener, or a gardener who wants to start growing their own but has minimal time on their hands.
It is also known by a number of names including Fat Hen (due to its use as hen feed), Poor-man’s Asparagus, Perennial Goosefoot, Lincolnshire Spinach or Markery. It is a striking plant, about 50cm tall, with large diamond-shaped leaves, and pinking flowers which appear in clusters. It is an attractive plant even after it has gone to seed, with clusters of rust coloured seeds evident in the late summer and early autumn.
If you already have this plant growing in your garden, then not is the time to start harvesting the shoots which taste like asparagus. However, make sure you leave some shoots so that the leaves can develop to be harvested in August. If you are preparing the leaves, though they can be eaten raw, consider soaking it in salt water for half an hour and discarding this water before boiling or wilting in a little oil. You can also try rubbing salt into the leaves to draw out the bitter flavour, as people used to with aubergine.
If you don’t have it in your garden and would like to introduce it then follow these growing instructions:
- Seeds should be sown in April-July in drills 1cm deep and 5cm apart. The seedlings should then be thinned to 10–20 cm.
- Pick a sunny spot which is free form perennial weeds and keep well watered at the seedling stage.
- A mulch, such as leaf mould or well-rotted compost applied to the plot.
The Kitchen Garden Homity Pie
- 2lbs potatoes we use Maris Piper
- 240g leeks finely chopped
- 10 garlic cloves, minced
- 300g of Cheddar, we love Montgomery’s Smoked Cheddar
- 4 tbsp chopped good King Henry
- 225g ready rolled short crust pastry
- Ground black pepper and Maldon salt to taste
Peel and chop the potatoes into small chunks, then boil until soft and leave to cool. Repeat this process with the leeks. Mince the garlic using a fine grater and add to a large mixing bowl together with the grated cheddar. Add the good King Henry, freshly milled black pepper and leeks and combine gently. Using an 8inch flat baking tin, roll out the pastry and fill the baking tin, then add the mixture. Cook the pie in the oven for 45 minutes at 200c/gas mark 6 or until you see the pastry is a golden brown colour. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Serve with a green salad.
For more information on growing lovage then visit London Herb Garden or tweet Hannah. If you want to see more posts from The Kitchen Garden then click here . Look out for a tasty recipe or two to illustrate the versatility of all the herbs this amazing series.