French Tarragon is a herb with a very distinctive flavour. The delicate, slightly aniseedy taste of the fine leaves works beautifully with fish and chicken dishes.
Find out how to create a herb pot for poultry dishes.
Its Latin name is Artemisia dracunculus ‘Sativa’ and should not be confused with its Russian counterpart, Artemisia dracunculus ‘Inodora’, which is not nearly as flavoursome.
Find out how to grow tarragon in our Grow Guide.
How to plant tarragon
A perennial herb, French tarragon does not flower or produce seed reliably and is therefore propagated by cuttings or root division. If you can’t take cuttings from a friend, it’s best to buy small plants to grow on in your garden.
Tarragon needs a sunny, sheltered position and fertile, well-drained soil. When planting, add a generous quantity of horticultural grit to the compost, whether you are growing in a pot or in a border.
Tending French tarragon
Make sure you water plants regularly, but don’t overwater – watch out for plants standing in water during periods of rainy weather.
Pick the leaves frequently, to encourage the production of fresh new leaves. As long as your plant doesn’t flower, the leaves will keep coming, so nip out any buds that do make an appearance. French Tarragon is borderline hardy, so move to a sheltered position in the winter. The leafy top will die back over winter, but should show signs of new growth in early spring.
Plants will keep going for a few years, but will naturally tire and produce less growth after about three years, when they can be divided. Follow our step-by-step guide to propagating tarragon.
Snip shoots off and pick leaves off the stems, as and when you need them through the growing season.
Tarragon leaves are best frozen for future use. However they can be dried and stored. They also make an excellent vinegar – find out how to make herb and fruit vinegars.
Preparation and uses
Chop leaves very finely and add to chicken and fish dishes and accompanying sauces.
French tarragon is relatively trouble-free apart from powdery mildew which can occur when plants are stressed due to lack of water. The white coating on leaves is quite easily recognisable and will cause leaves to drop.
Organic growing tip
Tarragon is a good companion planting herb. The distinctive scent of the leaves is not popular with many pests, and traditionally, it is also thought to enhance the growth and flavour of nearby plants. Discover some companion planting combinations.
Tarragon varieties to try
- Artemisia dracunculus, French tarragon – can reach up to 90cm in height
- Artemisia dracunculoides ‘Pursch’ – the Russian variety, with inferior flavour for cooking, grows taller, to about 1.5m