Post category: Herbs; Tarragon
Tarragon is among the most highly regarded of culinary herbs, a real aristocrat. There is only one species, Artemisia dracunculus, but two distinct kinds have been selected. French tarragon appears to be a variant form of the species with better flavour and less coarse foliage than the ordinary Russian kind. The french for tarragon is ‘estragon’, the name given by Samuel Beckett to one of the characters in his play ‘Waiting for Godot’, while the other is Vladimir, a russian!
French tarragon sets little or no seed and is grown from divisions, whereas the russian kind is grown from seed. Apparently, the russian kind improves in flavour as the plant ages, so it may simply be a matter of waiting. Though, as with any seed-raised plant, there is likely to be a lot of variation.
Tarragon is easy to grow. It needs only a reasonable, well-drained soil in any sunny spot. It can be grown with other plants in a flower bed or border, given a little room to itself as it is not a great competitor.
Narrow pointed, dark-green leaves distinguish this aromatic herb of distinctive aniseed flavour.
There are two main kinds, and the French version is far superior in flavour and texture to the Russian variation. Tarragon is widely used in classic French cooking for a variety of dishes including chicken, fish and vegetables as well as many sauces.
Care should be taken when using tarragon since its assertiveness can easily dominate other flavours.
The french variety has better flavour. The russian kind, raised from seed, may be satisfactory too, but the results may be variable.
Tarragon can be planted during October or March in the open ground, using divisions from existing plants – it forms underground stems – or a small plant purchased. One plant is usually enough for most household requirements, especially as it spreads to make a sizeable clump.
Keep tarragon free of weeds. It has light foliage and weeds sometimes get into the clump of roots.
It does not need watering generally but may be somewhat stunted in very dry soil.
Feeding: No feeding is necessary.
Harvesting: Pick the leafy stems for use as soon as they are long enough, usually from June to September or even October. It can also be potted up and grown in a greenhouse to extend the season.