Appears in
Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

pennyroyal Mentha pulegium, a perennial herb of the Near East, of prostrate habit, which has spread through Europe as far north as Finland. The ‘penny’ in its name is derived (by a tortuous route—see Grigson, 1955) from the Latin name by which it was known in the Middle Ages; this was pulegium, meaning flea plant. It then had a high reputation for driving away body lice and fleas, and is still valued for some medicinal purposes; but its use in the kitchen has been mainly as a savoury pudding herb, especially in the north of Britain, where it bears names such as ‘pudding herb’.