- Author: Cheryl A Potts
Whoops! In my excitement to get some tarragon into my newly planted winter garden, I almost bought a package of tarragon seeds. Little did I know at the time, that tarragon seed packaged for purchase is Russian tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus 'Indorus'), a far less tasty or aromatic herb than its wonderful anise-like cousin, French tarragon (Artemista dracanculus), or True Tarragon. Apparently, one cannot buy French tarragon seeds even if one tried, and the Russian tarragon has little or no flavor.
Once I realized this, I deducted that I would need to start my plant by planting a seedling, a cutting, or a division from an existing plant. Through some research, I also discovered that I would need to wait till spring to obtain my start. Division of this plant every two to three years is important, as, if allowed to do so, its serpentine roots will actually strangle the plant; thereby its name, which came from the French word, "esdragon", which means, "little dragon." Also, division is recommended to simply ensure the plant's vigor and flavor. So if you have a tarragon plant in your garden, dividing and sharing it with another gardener is a natural. (That's a hint.)
Tarragon needs to grow in good draining, loamy soil and makes a lovely potted plant. Though the plant dies back in the winter, mulching the roots is recommended to protect it from frost. It needs moderate water and full to partial sun. Some references say grow in partial to full shade, others recommend sun with some shade in the hottest part of the day. It is probably best to simply keep an eye on your plant and provide some shade if it seems indicated.
The plant most often fails due to being planted in acidic and or wet soil. Flower stems need to removed in late spring to keep the plant productive. The plant can suffer from rotting roots and sometimes mildew.
So, not until next summer will I be cooking my chicken, fish or preparing my salad with my home-grown favorite herb. And since I mentioned cooking, here are a few tarragon tips:
- Add tarragon to a long simmering stew or soup in the last 15 minutes of cooking.
- Slip tarragon leaves under the skin of the chicken you are roasting.
- Freeze or preserve tarragon in white vinegar.
- Dry by hanging a bunch upside down in a warm, dry place.