MANY of our garden herbs still in common use for purposes of seasoning are in reality British plants, says Longman's Magazine. Among them may be mentioned mint and marjoram and thyme and calamint, all of which may be found in their native haunts. Fennel is abundant on sea cliffs in many places in the south of England. Wild hyssop is perfectly naturalized on the picturesque ruins of Beaulieu Abbey and wild balm used to be found within the ancient walls of Portchester castle. The garden parsley was formerly abundant on the shingly beach at Hurst castle, where it used to be gathered for domestic purposes. One native herb, however, much in use among our forefathers is now seldom seen in kitchen gardens — we mean Tanacetum vulgare, the common tansy, the dull yellow flowers of which are often conspicuous by the side of streams. The young leaves and juice of this plant were formerly employed to give color and flavor to puddings, which were known as tansy cakes, or tansy puddings.


In mediæval times the use of these cakes was specially associated with the season of Easter and it is interesting to notice that in the diet rolls of St. Swithin's monastery at Winchester, which belong to the end of the fifteenth century, we come across the entry "tansey tarte." It has been said that the use of tansy cakes at this season was to strengthen the digestion after what an old writer calls "the idle conceit of eating fish and pulse for forty days in Lent," and it is certain that this was the virtue attributed to the plant by the old herbalists. "The herb fried with eggs which is called a 'tansy,'" says Culpepper, "helps to digest and carry away those bad humors that trouble the stomach," It seems more probable that the custom of eating tansy cakes at Easter time was associated with the teaching of that festival, the name "tansy" being a corruption of a Greek word meaning "immortality."

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