Next time you’re going to Komodo Island (to see the komodo dragons of course) make sure you take some French Tarragon (Artemisia drancunculus). The name tarragon is a corruption of the French Esdargon, derived from the Latin Drancunculus (a little dragon, and it’s botanical name)…. “was ascribed the faculty of curing the bites and stings of venemous beasts and of mad dogs.” (source; Mrs M. Grieve, A Modern Herbal).
It is a herb that is more known for its culinary value than medicinal- in fact it doesnt actually have much, if any medicinal action going for it these days. But is an absaloute must, quite obviously, for tarragon vinegar. which in turn is the only correct flavouring for sauce tartare (and a whole lot of other french sauces that this obviously un-cultured chick has never heard of!).
According to the authors of “The Cooks Herb Garden Revisited” Tarragon butter is the bees knees.. 150g of softened butter with 1-2 tablespoons of finely chopped tarragon, served with asparagus, potato and/or salmon (sounds like my perfect dinner!).
French Tarragon doesn’t produce seed so can only be propagated by cuttings or divisions, I like how Edgar Anderson a famous botanist put it when he said in 1936 that “when we take a plant of true tarragon into our gardens and grow it, and at length divide the root, we are the last link in a long chain of such people”.
French tarragon grows best in full sun with moderate watering. The young tender tips are best used in the kitchen so keep your plant well trimmed to get more shoots. The plants dies down in Autumn/Winter, keep your roots on the dry side (they rot easily) and up she’ll come again in Spring. Autumn is the time to divide the roots if you want to establish more plants, see my post here for more info on dividing.
Now don’t be fooled into Russian tarragon (A. dracunculus subsp. dracunculoides) which is nothing in flavour compared to the “true” tarragon. When you chew on a leaf of tarragon it should be really aniseedy and make your tongue feel a little funny. Russian tarragon can be grown from seed whereas french cannot.
French Tarragon is obviously a popular herb as I’ve nearly sold out of my plants available this year! Be in quick or if you’re heavily into pre-planning order for next year….