November 2017
The Herb Farm

Tansy and Turkey


Tansy is now my new best friend around the garden and house.

Tansy: Tanacetum vulgare, aka: bitter buttons

About a year or so ago, one of my favorite gardening friends and I were discussing the destructive nature of the Japanese beetle and how it skeletonizes our roses and various other ornamental plants.

I told her I usually cut back (prune) my roses when I see the first sign of those buggers and let the nine-banded armadillos take care of the grubs in the ground. There’s minimal turfgrass here, so the ‘dillos do not do much noticeable damage.

By the time the roses begin to bloom again, the beetle population has moved on; probably to somebody’s yard with some of those beetle traps hanging around.

She suggested planting tansy as a companion plant to help keep the pests away.

Well, I’ve been growing a small patch of tansy for years, but mostly as a mosquito repellant and a salad seasoning. Additionally, I never actually studied the plant and its benefits. I do know it repels those MO-sqweetoes and the leaves can be eaten in moderation, as long as you are not allergic to some of the properties of the plant.

So, the research began. I read every seemingly credible article and statement regarding tansy. I also read many – too many – plagiarized, copy/paste articles about the plant and its benefits, taboos and mystical properties.

I knew it was poisonous to a degree, but I just wrote that off as similar to someone having an allergy to certain types of MSG. However, after reading the just junk on the internet, whoa, baby! I will be a lot more careful how I use the herb as both a culinary ingredient and an insect repellant.

The reason I grow tansy in a small patch on the farm is because it can easily become an invasive nightmare, and I certainly don’t need any more of those.

All of the data I found suggests the plant’s maximum height is 3 feet. Well, they must have got themselves some of them dorfs! (Dwarfs, for the non-Southerners reading today.) The tansy plants I allow to grow for seed harvest easily reach 5 feet, at least.

This little orange is a calamondin, and the tree is either in bloom or has fruit on it 12 months out of the year!


Unless there are a lot of requests for seed from other plantsmen, I will only harvest every two to three years. Leftovers from year to year remain viable at least 60 percent for three years, if properly harvested and stored.

Most of the tansy I grow on the farm gets cut to stump nubs (3 inches from the ground) when inflorescence begins, but before complete maturity.

Tansy has been used for things from flavoring sausage to treating skin infections; from increasing blood flow to enhance fertility or for abortifacients (used to induce termination of pregnancy) in female reproductive organs.

In fact, tansy has been used in preparing bodies for burial, keeping the unpleasant odor of decaying flesh tolerable, and as an ingredient in the recipe for funeral teacakes.

Well, I guess the best use for the herb in my garden will be for the occasional flavor on a salad and a decent mosquito deterrent. Of course, there will be more tansy grown and used here on the farm.

I plan on growing enough tansy to take cuttings every few days to place around the windows and doors in order to keep houseflies and gnats from coming into the home. My preference for a flyswatter (fly swat, fly flap, etc.) would be for it stay on the hook in the kitchen than for it to be used for actual pest control.

FYI, I will not be using tansy in my turkey brine this year because it might just cause a reaction to somebody. Well, if I share it with anybody, that is.

What’s for lunch when you nearly skip breakfast and only eat a banana? How about a savory salad, packed with protein?

One of the cool things about farming in Alabama is you can always go to the kitchen garden and pick something to eat.


If you’d like to make this lunch salad for breakfast, simply add some bacon and yellow corn grits. Instead of using a salad dressing, make a queso!

Today, it’s bibb lettuce and a tomato from a late crop of vines that volunteered in the compost area. To round out this lunch plate, I added pickled jalapeños, sweet yellow onion, dried cranberries, chopped almonds, slices of Parmesan cheese and three five-minute poached eggs.

That will probably hold me until my midafternoon feeding. Hmmm. I forgot to plan tonight’s supper. …

Now, let me tell you how I poached those eggs without a kitchen-cluttering, automatic egg poacher.


This Thanksgiving, remember what you are thankful for.

I eat my yard! You should eat yours, too!

Until next time, remember to watch your salt and sugar, drink plenty of pure water, and breathe in and out!

Thanks for reading!

For more information, email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. I’ll answer your questions and I enjoy the emails!

Be sure to find me on Facebook at "Herb Farmer-The Herb Farm."

As always, check with an expert, like your doctor, before using any herbal remedy.