Tarragon is a lovely licorice-flavored herb that requires very little care.
Traditionally used to flavor fish, chicken, and omelets, tarragon is a must-have ingredient when making béarnaise sauce. It can also be snipped into salads, deviled eggs, potato salad and enough other recipes to make growing this easy-to-care-for herb an easy choice.
Types of tarragon
There are two types of true tarragon: French and Russian. French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa) is the culinary herb, while the Russian tarragon (Artemisia dracunculoides) has no flavor. In both cases, the plants will grow up to 24 inches tall and 12 inches wide, with slender leaves and tiny green flowers that never open. The Russian leaves are somewhat larger than the French. There is also a Mexican tarragon which isn’t really a tarragon at all, but it does have the licorice-flavored leaves so it can be used as a replacement for French tarragon. Mexican tarragon is related to marigolds. To avoid planting Russian tarragon by mistake (as plants are sometimes mislabelled), have a taste. Unfortunately, many seeds are mislabelled, as well.
How to grow tarragon
Tarragon requires nothing more than occasional waterings and good drainage to provide lush growth. It is easiest to buy seedlings or to take divisions from established plants. Follow these steps to divide an older plant:
Tarragon performs well in containers for the first year, but it needs to be planted in the ground after that. The container limits root growth so much that the plants lose their flavor. Regular watering is the key to the production of tenet new leaves. Tarragon tolerates alkaline soil, making it an excellent choice in the Bay Area. Tarragon can be grown in full sun in cooler areas, or it can be added to an area with dappled sunlight or a shade garden in areas with really hot summer days.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!