Sunday, May 4, 2014

French Tarragon

If you aren't already growing French tarragon put it on your list. This sprawling perennial plant grows from 30 to 60 cm. tall (about 2-3 feet). Well, that is what my herb books say but grown in a pot mine was a foot tall last year. It has long stems and slender, spiky, dark green, aromatic leaves that grow about one-inch long. It grows and spreads slowly from tangled, underground rhizomes.

It is is a cold-sensitive perennial and must be over-wintered indoors in my climate. I pot it and keep it in a sunny location in the house. You can grow it by dividing an established plant in spring or by cutting from new growth taken in summer or fall. Grow cuttings under a cloche (a dome cover.) As far as I know, French Tarragon cannot be grown from seed. Mine has never flowered and apparently it won't in cold climates. I did have one small plant over-winter last year but I always take the main plant in the house for the winter just in case!


  • The flavour of French tarragon is strong but pleasantly distinctive. Traditional uses include dishes for chicken, white fish, creamy sauces, eggs and cheese.
  • I like to take fresh sprigs of the herb and make a vinegar for use in winter salad dressings and sauces. It goes really well with white wine or champagne vinegar.
  • Hang to dry; the flavor stays nice and strong. Seal your dried tarragon in a jar and store in a dark, cool cupboard.

My research didn't uncover a specific, modern medicinal use although it was used historically for toothache and is known to stimulate appetite. It is green and therefore a good source of chlorophyll and vitamin A.

© Nancy Guppy, RD, MHSc.  Visit my website to find out more about online nutrition counselling. 

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