Tarragon, for the most part, is a culinary herb used in chicken and fish dishes. It is a perennial plant, meaning it will come back year after year, with bright green foliage. The French have nicknamed this herb, Herbe au dragon. There is a lot of speculation as to why, but it is believed to be because of the fire it leaves in your mouth. Tarragon is available in several forms, French, Spanish and Russian.
Spanish tarragon is a closely related cousin to French tarragon, but lacks the amount of spice that the French version has.
Russian tarragon is a weedy type plant and has no place in the kitchen as it is virtually tasteless and odorless. Russian tarragon is started with seeds. Most tarragon that is sold and used, is of the French variety. This article will be dealing with the French type of tarragon from here on out.
French tarragon, the most popular type by far, is an herb that has an anise-like flavor and scent. It is used mostly for cooking as it very rarely sets flowers and the plant itself adds very little in the way of ornamental value to the garden.
French tarragon can only be grown from root or stem cuttings, or by dividing an already established plant. Even if your French tarragon blooms, the chance of it actually setting seeds is virtually nil.
French tarragon does better in a northern type climate but can be grown in the south with a little extra care. The plants need to be kept moist and don’t do very well in dry soil or high humidity. They like a little shade during the daytime. Plant them in organically rich soil, in a well-drained spot that receives morning sun and afternoon shade. Your plants may appear to start failing during the hottest part of the summer but should start looking better come fall. If all goes right, it will be back the following spring.
French tarragon can grow up to two feet tall and will spread out to about one foot wide. When purchasing young plants at your local gardening center always pinch off a leaf to be sure that the plant has a scent and flavor that are pleasing to you as this can vary from plant to plant.
When your French tarragon grows to about six inches, tall, you should clip any off-shooting stems to encourage fullness. Pinching off any flower buds that appear will enable your plant to be more productive. The plants should be divided every three to four years in the spring or fall, to help the plants remain actively growing.
French tarragon can be grown indoors during the winter by placing a division of the plant in a pot during the late summer and bringing it inside for short periods of time, gradually increasing the time until the plant has adjusted to its new environment.
French tarragon is delicious when used to season poultry and fish dishes. It can also be used in salads, salad dressings, and sauces. By placing some French tarragon into a bottle with white vinegar and letting it sit for a while, you can create a wonderfully flavored vinegar to be used on salads.
French tarragon makes a nice addition to the family herb garden.