What is Tansy and How Do You Use It?

FR: Barbotine, Herbe amere, Herbe aux vers, Tanaisie

GER: Drusenkraut, Rainfarn, Wurmkraut

IT: Tanaceto or Ariceto or Erba amara

SP: Argentina, Balsamita menor, Tanaceto

BOT: Chrysanthemum vulgare (Tanacetum vulgare)

FAM: Compositae

Tansy is a native of Europe, including Britain, and is also common wild in the eastern United States. The plant is usually two to three feet tall with golden yellow, button-like flowers and fern-like leaves. There are decorative garden varieties, and tansy is cultivated as a commercial crop in a few places, notably in the United States.

What is Tansy and How Do You Use It? Photo Gallery




This was a commonly used wild and cottage garden herb of medieval Europe, though it is little used in cooking today. The flavour is strong and, to many, rather unpleasant. It is very easy to grow by root division or from seed.

A ‘tansy’ is a kind of custard, baked or boiled and flavoured predominantly with tansy leaves. Chopped tansy leaves also flavour tansy cake and tansy pudding, dishes, in the past, especially associated with Easter. Various reasons are put forward for this, yet nobody has put forward the theory that people liked it. However, tansy frequently appears in recipes from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and Izaak Walton mentions it in a recipe for minnows. Some authorities recommend it for omelettes, stuffings, freshwater fish and meat pies, as well as for salads. It is also reputed to be one of the many herbs in chartreuse, but this liqueur is credited with every herb in the calendar.

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