MENTZELIA

A. A most beautiful and neglected annual, of the easiest possible culture. Mentzdia lindleyi (often catalogued as Bartonia aurea) has finely-cut leaves and large, brilliant yellow flowers resembling a hypericum. There is some fragrance. The blooms usually open in the evening, lasting for several days. Thin to 8 in. Height 15—18 in. A sunny position and light, sandy soil are desirable.

MERCURY, ALLGOOD or GOOD KING HENRY P. An interesting and unusual vegetable which should be grown more widely. The correct name is Chenopodium, bonus-henricus hence the popular name, Good King Henry. It is still grown in some parts of the country, especially Lincolnshire, the leaves being used as a substitute for spinach and the young shoots as an alternative to asparagus. (The perpetual or spinach beet has practically displaced the former usage.) Sow seed in April in deep, reasonably fertile soil which should be well-drained and thin to at least 1 ft. apart. Germination is sometimes irregular but this plant is a very vigorous grower and for a household of three a dozen or so plants will probably be more than enough. The young shoots can be cut from just below soil level in April like asparagus. Do not cut too heavily, as this may weaken the plant. In the second and subsequent years a full crop may be cut. The leaves can either be eaten raw in a salad or cooked in the same way as spinach. Cutting should cease after the end of June. An autumn dressing of compost or well-rotted manure is helpful and can also be given during the growing season. Always use the plants soon after cutting, otherwise they turn flabby and tasteless.

The shoots can also be earthed up and blanched in the New Year for extra early cutting. They only need 10 minutes’ cooking in boiling water and are no trouble to wash.

Chenopodium album is the pernicious annual weed known as goosefoot, muckle-wced, dung-weed or fat hen. It is probably more abundant on rich soils but is easily pulled up by hand or hoeing when young.

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