How to Grow French Tarragon

Sweet anise tasting herb. Leaves are used in salads and soups, or to flavor sauces (bearnaise) and vinaigrette. Pairs well with seafood and poultry dishes.

Botanical Information

Taxonomy

Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa

History

Physical Description

  • grows up to 2′ tall and is slightly bushy – about a foot wide
  • The 2″ leaves are long & slender, and grow out along the plants many stems
  • It does flower, but they are tiny & pale green. They don’t open or produce seed.

Varieties & Cultivars

Categories or Types of Tarragon

There are a few different plants that are called Tarragon, but only A. dracunculus is the true French Tarragon. 

  • Russian Tarragon: A. dracunculoides
    • larger, coarser, not useful in cooking
  • Mexican Tarragon: Tagetes lucida, also known as Sweet Mace
    • a member of the marigold family
    • perennial in hot climates
    • aromatic oils are similar to French Tarragon (anise), can be used as a substitute
    • grows taller, and not as delicate as French Tarragon
    • yellow flowers, and is rather pretty in a border

Growth Requirements

Climate & Temperature Requirements

Air Temperature

Soil Temperature

likes a good bit of cold (almost freezing) temperatures to go dormant (author suggests two-months, minimum)

Humidity

harder to grow in high humidity

Day Length or Light Requirements

Site Conditions Favored

  • Full sun in northern areas, but some shade in sunny, hot regions is good
  • needs sunlight to develop good flavor, so too much shade leads to dull flavor

Soil Requirements

Soil Texture

  • requires good drainage

pH

Nutrient Requirements

Propagation

Methods of propagation

Seed

Division

  • Best bet for propagating
  • late winter, or very early spring, lift the oldest patches of plants with a garden fork
  • discard roots without any green shoots
  • trim roots with shoots attached to fit in a small pot (author suggests 4″ pots)
  • use a fast-draining soilless mix
  • keep in shade for two weeks to let the root hairs develop

Cuttings

  • can be done, but they can be fragile

Transplanting or Potting Up

Seed Saving

Planting Out

Bed Prep & Soil Amendments

Bed Spacing

Row Spacing

Planting Depth

Alternative Bed Methods

Container Gardening

Does well for one season, but once the roots fill it, the flavor goes away

Routine Cultivation & Maintenance

Water Requirements

  • young plants: water every other day during dry weather
  • mature plants: water ever 3 days to keep leafy
  • mature plants can survive long periods without water, but they won’t produce new leaves
  • steady watering produces best flavor

Fertilization Recommendations

top-dress with compost every winter

Mulching & Weeding

Pinching or Pruning & Dividing

  • cut back (or harvest) half the plant in late June (or late spring), cutting about 6″ off the ground
  • should be ready to harvest again in six weeks

Support

Winterizing

Companion Planting

Helpful Companions

Harmful Companions

Companion to..

Pests, Diseases & Problems

Common Pests

Common Diseases

Symptoms

Whole Plant

Leaves

Stem/Trunk

Flowers

Fruit

Roots

Harvesting & Storage

Edible Parts of the Plant

leaves and tender new stems

Yield

Heavy users should grow 3 to 4 plants for continuous supply from early spring to late fall

Days to Harvest / Harvest Timing

late June: harvest half the plant to promote good production throughout the summer

Harvest Methods

Storage of harvest

Fresh

Canned

Frozen

good method to preserve flavor; chop & freeze in water

In Vinegar

gold way to preserve the flavor

Dried

not very effective, since the anise flavor compounds are volatile (gas off quickly)

Cooking

Nutritional Benefits & Values

Toxicity

Cooking

Preparation

Cooking Methods

Recipes

Resources

Information for this article was taken from these sources:

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