Good King Henry

 

Illustration_Chenopodium_bonus-henricus0
Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Illustration_Chenopodium_bonus_henricus0.jpg

 

When it comes to the botanical name of the plant commonly known as Good King Henry there is some confusion as to what it really is. The plant was originally classified in 1753 by German botanist Carl Linnaeus as Chenopodium bonus-henricus in his seminal work Species Planetarium, which was, for lack of a better term an encyclopedia of plants (Linnaeus, 1753). However since 2012 genetic testing has revealed that the plant is, at a molecular level, more similarly related to the spinach family and thus its name is properly recorded as Blitum bonus-henricus (Susy Fuentes-Bazan, Pertti Uotila, Thomas Borsch, 2012). Good King Henry also has a slew of other colloquial names including Lincolnshire Asparagus, Lincolnshire Spinach, and Poor-Man’s Asparagus (Temperate Climate Permaculture). Despite its rather regal sounding name the plant has absolutely no connection with any of England’s many King Henrys nor does it have any connection to any of France’s King Henry’s for that matter. Rather the plant was originally named Guter Heinrich (Good Henry) by the Germans, the English simply appropriated the plant name and added in the regal heading to make the plant their own (Temperate Climate Permaculture).

Good King Henry 03
Temperate Climate Permaculture, http://tcpermaculture.blogspot.ca/2012/02/permaculture-plants-good-king-henry.html

Good King Henry is a self pollinating, perennial herb, native, as its name suggests, to Europe, but it can be found growing wild in North America, most predominantly in North Eastern Canada and the United States; it was originally brought to the European colonies as a potherb (Mother Earth Living). Good King Henry, in a permaculture sense makes for good ground cover it grows to be anywhere from 40-80 cm tall and is one of the few herbs around that prefers partial shade (Mother Earth Living). Good King Henry is ideally planted in well drained garden soil but many people have had success using it as a cover crop in food forests where it can create a rather dense herbal blanket. The Plant is also relatively hardy which makes it well suited to many different environments, it carries a USDA hardiness classification of 3-9 (Temperate Climate Permaculture). Given its ability to live in a variety of climates the plant can flower any time between May and October depending on the USDA zone in which it is located. The plant has many, almost triangular leaves, extending from the main shoot, upon the top of the shoot one can find the seeds which are clustered and look very much like a grain. The Diagram produced by Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé (Located at the top of this article) is an ideal representation of the plant (Temperate Climate Permaculture).

Good King Henry has been used for hundreds of years. Alys Fowler, a gardening columnist for the Guardian claims that the plant has been cultivated for human production since the peak of the Roman Empire. This would make some sense because just about every part of the plant is edible. The leaves can be eaten cooked or raw; however, most sources warn about eating the leaves raw in great quantities due to the presence of Oxalic acid which is not good for human consumption in great quantities. The good news is that Oxalic acid can be neutralized with heat so cooking the leaves makes them very edible. The shoots, as the colloquial name ‘Poor Man’s Asparagus’ may suggest, can be picked and eaten just like asparagus. The flower buds can also be eaten like small broccoli and the seeds of the plant are very similar to Quinoa. Other than being a hardy low maintenance crop Good King Henry also has several unique medicinal qualities. Most agree that the plant, if enough is eaten, can be used as a gentle laxative one which would be most effective, and safe to use, on children. Some have also stated that the planet can be beneficial in treating parasitic worm infections (Temperate Climate Permaculture). Good King Henry is also rich in Iron and Vitamin C both of which are essential to humans (Mother Earth Living).

References:

Fowler, A. (2011, March 11). The renaissance of Good King Henry. Retrieved June 05, 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2011/mar/12/alys-fowler-good-king-henry-poppies

Fuentes-Bazan, S.  Pertti Uotila, Thomas Borsch: A novel phylogeny-based generic classification for Chenopodium sensu lato, and a tribal rearrangement of Chenopodioideae   (Chenopodiaceae). In: Willdenowia. Vol. 42, No. 1, 2012, p. 18.

Kitsteiner, J. (n.d.). Permaculture Plants: Good King Henry. Retrieved June 05, 2017, from http://tcpermaculture.blogspot.ca/2012/02/permaculture-plants-good-king-henry.html Linnaeus, C. Species Plantarum. Vol. 1, Impensis Laurentii Salvii, Holmiae, 1753, p.218.

Ogden Publications. (1994, February 01). Herb To Know: Good-King-Henry. Retrieved June 05, 2017, from http://www.motherearthliving.com/plant-profile/an-herb-to-know-9

Animal Systems

One of my favourite lessons on the farm had to be Animal Systems with Tamara. I grew up around animals my parents have always had horses, sheep, and chickens and my best friend’s family owns one of the largest dairy farms on the Vancouver island. The use of animals for labour and production has been a part of human history since modern humans began to abandon the traditional nomadic way of life and settle, domesticating animals as an alternative to the energy intensive process of hunting them. Agriculture is possibly one of the most intensive and most revolutionary revelations in human history and it is a practice that continues to evolve. One of the most interesting concepts that Tamara spoke of was the idea of rotational grazing. I first came across the concept in my first year of university at Dalhousie University where it was being studied as a possible solution for stopping desertification from occurring. It was fascinating to see the practical application of this process and that it really did seem to work. It makes me ponder why this practice isn’t used more! It is clearly a far cheaper and less labour-intensive way of fertilizing than running a tractor to spread manure which most industrial farms do. I was also kissed on the face by a cow that day which was pretty neat; its not the first time this has happened to me, but its always nice to be loved. I don’t have any photos of that so if anyone does, send them my way!Rebellious Herd

Permaculture Ponderings

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Now that the field school has concluded and life is beginning to slip back into its natural rhythm (consisting mostly of work and sleep), I find myself thinking about permaculture far more than I did before. I’ll see or do something at work and think to myself “Hey, that’s permaculture!” These little moments of epiphany have got me thinking about what permaculture really is, but more so, what permaculture is to me. I think it’s fair to say that everyone approaches the concept of permaculture in a very different way it’s one of the things I like about it, a permaculture design can be as imaginative and unique as the individual whom has crafted it. I believe that I likely look at permaculture in a different way than most but in many ways, I think I view it in a very similar way as well. Permaculture to me is a way of thinking, it’s a way of reconciling (in the Canadian big C kind of way) my fiscal Conservative values, Libertarian Social Values and my environmental values which are way out in left field so too speak. I have always been surrounded by nature. I don’t like living in the city; it’s simply an unavoidable evil I must deal with if I want to go to school and as such I have always felt that we need to protect the things that make British Columbia and Canada some of the most beautiful places on earth. I have long subscribed to the idea that it is not possible to have economic prosperity without environmental sustainability and it is something that I think Kevin and the Klahoose First Nation not only subscribe to, but highlight rather effectively. The First Nation has been able to generate prosperity through industrial means yet in a sustainable way, through small selective forestry endeavours to hydro electric projects and non-invasive low intensity aquaculture. I also have a lot of respect for the fact that the First Nation has been able to create economic stability while simultaneously maintaining and promoting the history of their people. I also admire Kevin’s determination to work with the members of the First Nation through consultation and his desire to bring people back home. Permaculture is a lot of things to a lot of people But I would argue first and foremost that it is a way of thinking, that it is a way of challenging the status quo, and in most cases, makes our world a little more sustainable and a little less scary.