Green Thumb – Origin of Phrase

Q: This isn’t a question, just a bit of garden trivia. Do you know how the expression “green thumb” originated?

According to James Underwood Crockett, it comes from the fact that algae growing on the outside of earthenware pots will stain a person’s thumb (and fingers) if he or she handles enough pots. Hence, a person who is always working with flower pots has a green thumb.

Another theory is that it originated during the reign of King Edward I of England. He was fond of green peas and kept half a dozen serfs shelling them during the season. The serf who had the “greenest thumb” won a prize.

A: Thanks for the note! I am cleaning some old clay pots now and I can attest to their green-staining ability.