Just three ‘stalks’ of this pretty little flower have emerged down the Bow. In all the years we have been visiting there daily, we’ve never seen this one before.
How did it get there? Who knows! Is it indigenous? No!
Wikipedia to the rescue – they say – Tansy is native to Eurasia; it is found in almost all parts of mainland Europe, as well as Britain and Ireland. It is absent from Siberia and some of the Mediterranean islands. The ancient Greeks may have been the first to cultivate it as a medicinal herb.
Tansy is used for digestive tract problems including stomach and intestinal ulcers, certain gallbladder conditions, migraines, nerve pain, joint pain, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses. Using tansy might also cause toxic effects.
It is connected with some interesting old customs observed at Easter time, when even archbishops and bishops played handball with men of their congregation, and a Tansy cake was the reward of the victors. These Tansy cakes were made from the young leaves of the plant, mixed with eggs, and were thought to purify the humours of the body after the limited fare of Lent. In time, this custom obtained a kind of symbolism, and Tansies, as these cakes were called, came to be eaten on Easter Day as a remembrance of the bitter herbs eaten by the Jews at the Passover. Coles (1656) says the origin of eating it in the spring is because Tansy is very wholesome after the salt fish consumed during Lent, and counteracts the ill-effects which the ‘moist and cold constitution of winter has made on people . . . though many understand it not, and some simple people take it for a matter of superstition to do so.’
‘This balsamic plant,’ says Boerhaave (the Danish physician), ‘will supply the place of nutmegs and cinnamon,’ and the young leaves, shredded, serve as a flavouring for puddings and omelets. Gerard tells us that Tansy Teas were highly esteemed in Lent as well as Tansy puddings.
A most interesting plant. Long may it live here!