Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Mini Herb of the Week - Tarragon

We do an in-depth study of growing and using various herbs once or twice a month.  So we thought in between those larger posts we would do a shorter post on a single aspect of an herb and call that a Mini Herb of the Week.

For our first Mini Herb of the Week, we chose Tarragon.  I grow tarragon to make vinegar mostly, but I do use it in my Butter N Cheese Herb Mix, Bouquet Garni Blends, Ranch Dressings and Tarragon Yogurt Dip. We posted a nice blog on Tarragon back in 2012.

It is easy to grow, simple to harvest and dry, and I have not had many issues growing it.  However, when I had to replant after the flood (see post) not all the herbs went back into hills as they had been before and the tarragon I thought could grow under just about any conditions, was affected negatively by this change.
hills after the flood, tarragon is way over by the fence having relocated

Growing Tarragon

tarragon sprouting in spring
Tarragon dies back in winter and is often the slowest plant to reappear in late spring if the winter was cold and wet and continues into Spring. This is because Tarragon likes a well-drained almost dry and warm soil to grow in.  When I had the hills, the soil drained properly and the tarragon was happy.  However, drainage was an issue when the hills were swept away, as now the plants were lower and the soil more dense.  It also did not warm as soon as the hills did. They work kinda like a container. Because you control the soil, containers warm early in the spring.

Tarragon’s roots will tightly intertwine and it can choke itself out if not divided every one to two years. The relocation due to the flood was good for the tarragon as we cut apart the plants and replanted them in a nice sunny location and we expected a great season for tarragon. 

We were not so lucky. The plants never got bushy, cuttings them did not result in more active growth, the leaves on the bottom fell off and generally the plant looked the same as it did from replanting shock most of the summer.

To avoid these issues you can grow your tarragon in a container where you can mix a lighter spoil that will drain quickly.  It will flop over a bit in a container because of its height, but you will not have the drainage issues.

If you are planting tarragon in the ground pick a sunny well-drained location. Plants benefit from a good fertilizing at the start of the growing season. Work some crab meal or aged chicken manure into your soil. I recommend container gardeners fertilize with fish emulsion.  I raised them back up into hills once I realized they were unhappy.  I was worrying about the sage, thyme and the tender perennials when I first rebuilt that garden rows, Tarragon, alas was not on the list at first.

French tarragon does not set seed, so don’t be tempted to buy a seed packet. It will be Russian tarragon which is nearly tasteless. Regular using and cutting of plants early in the season develops a desirable compact growth habit, but the second year you need to clip more often or it grows very tall.

tarragon flourishing now that it is back in the hill!
The first year, a tarragon plant is slow to grow if you buy a nursery plant, but once Tarragon gets going it grows by leaps and bounds and the delicate, fresh anise-like flavor pairs beautifully with salads, eggs, fish and chicken. I love it in herbal vinegar and as an ingredient in sauces (like this one.)

Lemon-Tarragon Sauce

Partly hollandaise and partly béarnaise sauce, this Mediterranean accented recipe can be used on seafood, turkey, zucchini or my favorite cooked or raw carrots.

4 Tbls. fresh tarragon or 4 tsp. dried
1 Tbls. chopped fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp capers

Mix all ingredients together and allow to meld.  You can chill it or warm it, before serving.

1 comment:

  1. I was planning to plant Tarragon this year so this is very timely....glad I hadn't ordered those seeds yet :)


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