Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa

French Tarragon

French tarragon is a perennial that goes dormant in winter but comes back to life in spring. It is normally purchased as a plant (propagated by division or from cuttings) as it is virtually impossible to obtain viable seed. It is not to be confused with A. dracunculoides (Russian tarragon) a variety that is grown from seed and that has a bitter taste and lacks the aromatic oils of the French variety. French tarragon grows into a bushy shrub, about 40 cm high and as wide, with narrow green leaves. The plants lose their vigour over time so it is a good idea to put in new stock every few years. Use the anise flavour of French tarragon leaves to complement food such as eggs, chicken, fish and veal as well as vegetables, potatoes, stuffed tomatoes, rice and avocado. Tarragon is used to flavour sauces such as Béarnaise sauce and tartar sauce, and is used in combination with chervil, parsley and chives as fines herbes for adding to egg dishes and sauces. Tarragon vinegar, which is used in salad dressings and marinades, is made by steeping the fresh herbs in white wine vinegar. The versatility of tarragon doesn’t end there because it can also be incorporated into butters, hot or cold soups and mustards.

The Gardener