Fresh Clips: Growing Tarragon

French tarragon has a complex flavor and smells of anise and licorice.

| June/July 2012

When it comes to distinctive flavor, French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus 'Sativa') is the only true tarragon, with an aromatic mingling of anise along with hints of licorice, pepper and basil.

Though sometimes sold as a culinary tarragon, Russian tarragon (A. dracunculus var. inodora) has a pungent, slightly bitter flavor. Simply rub the leaves between your fingers and take a whiff: French tarragon smells of anise and licorice; Russian tarragon does not.

Growing Tarragon

• French tarragon is usually grown from plants or propagated by division and root cuttings, as it rarely sets seed. When it does, the seeds often are sterile.

• Grow tarragon in well-drained soil and moderate to full sun, providing a bit of afternoon shade in areas where summers are hot. Compacted or soggy soil may lead to its demise.

• Plants die to the ground in winter and are hardy to USDA Zones 4 to 9. Protect its shallow roots by mulching with straw, shredded leaves or bark before heavy frost sets in.

• When growing tarragon where winters are harsh, set up a cold frame over the plant, or pot up in fall and overwinter indoors near a bright window.

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