Growing French Tarragon in Your Garden

Tarragon-0016

Growing French Tarragon is one of the more challenging herbs in Pioneer Dad’s garden. French Tarragon is frequently referred to as “the chef’s best friend”. Tarragon may be grown as an annual or as a perennial. It is winter hardy to zone 4. In colder climates, it may be necessary to cover French tarragon with mulch during the winter, when grown as a perennial. It tends to be finicky when it comes to light and water. But, when it is happy, it’s a delight to grow proviinh a wonderful licorice flavor in cooking..

Shopping for tarragon will yield two types: French and Russian. The Russian tarragon, classified as the same species, offers inferior flavor compared to French tarragon. For cooking you definitely want the French variety.

1. How to grow tarragon

It’s best to start growing tarragon from cuttings or French tarragon plants purchased at a local nursery. True French tarragon cannot be grown from seeds.

Like most herbs, tarragon prefers full sun with well-drained soils. Expect it to grow to a height of 24 to 36 inches with a 12 to 15-inch width.

Tarragon needs sunshine and well-drained soil. It does not like soil that is too wet or acidic. During very hot days, the plant likes a little bit of shade.

The most ideal site is somewhere with full sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon.  In areas that aren’t too hot, full sun all afternoon can be tolerated. If planting it in a pot, give the plant it’s own container, it can be easily overgrown by more aggressive plants.

You can also grow tarragon indoors with a window that gets at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day. In containers, tarragon needs a pot that is at least 10-12 inches deep so that the roots have room to grow.

Tarragon is winter hardy but water sparingly, and move the container indoors or to an area that is frost-free.

Divide tarragon every three to four years or the roots will overgrow each other and choke the plants so they can’t get the proper nutrients.

2. Uses of tarragon

Originally tarragon was found in southern Russia and western Asia. It has long, narrow leaves that are very delicate with it peppery flavor offering a faint hint of licorice, less than fennel but more than basil. Tarragon can enhance the flavor of many French dishes. It is a popular compliment fish for, pork, beef, chicken and many vegetables. Tarragon is also fabulous in cream sauces, herbed butters, vinegars and soups.

3. Harvesting tarragon

Begin harvesting tarragon 6-8 weeks after planting. Tarragon leaves picked in the middle of summer are the best for freezing or drying. The leaves to bruise easily so handle gently with harvesting.  Cut only the top third of the stems, especially for cooking.

To store, wrap the leaves in a paper towel and place in a plastic bag in the fridge. Tarragon leaves will last about 2-3 weeks.  If you don’t plan to use the leaves in 2-3 weeks, they can be frozen. Tarragon does not dry well late in the growing season. Use it fresh in summer recipes and use it frozen during other times of the year.

4. Quick tarragon facts

Latin name:                  Artemisia dracunculus
Common name:           French tarragon
Plant Type:                  perennial herb
Hardiness:                   zone 4-9
Light:                           full sun, partial sun
Soil:                             well-drained but moist
Size:                            1-5 feet tall, 1-2 feet wide

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