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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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stonecrop the general name for the numerous plants of the genus Sedum, common in temperate and northern regions of Europe and Asia. They have hot, bitter leaves. The milder kinds are eaten as vegetables; the medium ones used as condiments; and the strongest are inedible but have been used as emetics.

The common English names of the stonecrops are interesting but confusing. Grigson (1955) lists them in an illuminating way and explains how the French name trique-madame turned into the English ‘prick-madam’ and was used in the form ‘trip-madame’ by John Evelyn in a list which he drew up between 1688 and 1706 of plants for the kitchen garden. He was referring to S. reflexum (syn. S. rupestre), the yellow stonecrop, which in some places shares the name ‘creeping Jenny’ with S. acre, more commonly known as wall-pepper or golden stonecrop. S. acre has the distinction of possessing the longest vernacular name in the English language: ‘welcome-home-husband-though-never-so-drunk’. However, Sempervivum tectorum, the so-called houseleek or sengreen, is a close runner-up with the name ‘welcome-home-husband-though-never-so-late’.