The perennial Tarragon is a strongly-flavoured, distinctive herb. It is much favoured in French cooking, and the dried leaves can be used to add piquancy to pot pourri. A second leaf crop can be taken if the plant is cut by two-thirds in July. There are two varieties: French (A. dracunculus var. sativa) and Russian (A. dracunculus var. inodora). The two are so similar that the only effective means of identification is to taste the leaves. The foliage of French Tarragon is a darker green and hairless with a spicy/sweet taste (reminiscent of anise), while Russian Tarragon has a more bitter taste. The latter is more frost-hardy and can grow to 1.5m (5ft), compared with the former at 60cm (2ft); any seed offered is usually the Russian variety, as French Tarragon rarely sets seed successfully in the UK.
Grow indoors at around 10°C (50°F): plants outside will tolerate some frost, but as a precaution, pot a few roots in Winter and keep them in a cold greenhouse. Both types may lose the lower leaves in Winter; plants frosted to the ground will probably grow again from the rootstock.
Grow this herb in full sun; containerized plants may need protection from the full heat of midday in very warm regions. ‘Keep thewell moistened throughout the growing season: from October to March, only water when the compost surface is dry, and move any plants in containers into if the weather is wet for a prolonged period.
Tarragon dislikes waterlogged conditions, so before repotting, check that the container’s drainage holes are clear.
No additional humidity is needed; plants in dry-aired rooms may benefit from a bowl of water nearby.
After the first leaf crop is harvested in July, apply a general-purpose feed around the plant.
Grow in a loam-based compost: plants in the garden will thrive in poor, dry, sandy soils. Divide and repot or replant every 2-3 years for the best leaf flavour.
In Spring, pot small plants (about 8cm/3in tall), grow – them on – preferably out side – and trim back hard in July for good Winter windowsill plants.
RECIPES & REMEDIES This strongly-flavoured herb should be used in moderation. Two or three leaves are plenty in a salad, or add two chopped leaves to mayonnaise for a fish dish. Tarragon freezes well in sprigs.
Tarragon Herb Butter Beat together 100g (4oz) butter, 1 tbsp chopped fresh Tarragon and a little lemon juice; pack into a pot and chill before serving with vegetables or grilled meat or fish.
Tarragon Vinegar Add several sprigs to white distilled vinegar, and keep it cool and dark for a couple of weeks. Strain and bottle.