Patsy Bell Hobson is a garden writer and a travel writer. For her, it's a great day when she can combine the two things she enjoys most: gardening and traveling. Visit her personal blogMy garden blog at http://patsybell.blogspot.com/ and read her travel writings at http://www.examiner.com/x-1948-Ozarks-Travel-Examiner.
French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) thrives in my garden. I don't know why. Several people have asked me for tarragon growing secrets. I don't have a clue. Seldom fed or watered, mulched, but not otherwise protected in the winter, tarragon likes to live in the sunny, well drained soil of the raised bed.
It is a perennial that I do not bring in for the winter. The tarragon plant, and the whole herb bed gets a healthy layer of shredded leaf mulch later in fall. That is the only protection I provide in my zone 6 garden. The herb plant, disappears in winter, goes dormant, and comes back stronger and bigger next spring.
I use tarragon in the kitchen mainly as a herb vinegar additive and in salad dressing. In the garden, it adds variety and has a strong anise (licorice) scent when touched.
Tarragon wine vinegar can be diluted with water if it is too strong.
Photo by Trey Capnerhurst
Tarragon has some antibacterial qualities. It may be one of the reasons why, in ancient times, it was recommended to treat mad dog and dragon bites. I, personally, have never had the occasion to need such medical care, and therefore cannot testify to its healing properties.
I mention tarragon this late in the gardening season because there are two fall-time ways I use French tarragon. 1. To make tarragon vinegar and 2. To make tarragon chicken. Make these recipes your own by tweaking them and trying different herb combinations.
Herb vinegar is only as good as the vinegar you select. If you are making a gourmet product, buy the best quality vinegar you can afford. If the herb vinegar is mostly for decoration or display, use inexpensive white vinegar. It doesn’t take much tarragon—just a sprig or two to flavor a whole bottle of white wine vinegar.
Use a 5 or 6 inch sprig of tarragon in each bottle.
Photo by Jasmine & Roses
A mild garlic flavor is a great addition to tarragon vinegar. Poke a peeled clove of garlic onto a wooden skewer. Add the garlic skewer to the vinegar. You may need to clip the skewer so the lid will fill on the jar or bottle of vinegar. Taste the vinegar after two weeks. If the flavor is strong enough, remove the tarragon and garlic. If not, let the herb vinegar continue to steep for another week. Strain using a paper coffee filter.
Now, isn’t removing that skewer a lot easier than fishing around for elusive garlic cloves at the bottom of the herb vinegar bottle?
Stuff a sprig of tarragon in the cavity of a Cornish game hen and cook it as you normally do. The rotisserie works well for this recipe. As the hen cooks, tarragon lightly permeates whole bird. Remove the herbs when the hen cools and freeze whole or cut in half. Next month, thaw the birds in the frig, then slowly warm in the oven.
End of season bloomer Mexican tarragon looks like dwarf single marigolds.
Photo by Valenaann
A little tarragon goes a long way. If in doubt, use less now—it's easier to add more tarragon later.