Ok, so I don’t really know how to speak French and had to google ‘delicious’ to find ‘delicieux’, but I do know a thing or two about growing French Tarragon, especially here in WA.
French Tarragon has a mild aniseed flavour that is amazing with chicken, fish and egg dishes as well as most vegetables. Some people use Russian tarragon as a substitute but in my opinion it isn’t worth bothering with and I don’t even bother growing it. I would rather cook a different dish and wait until I have French tarragon.
The test for whether tarragon is the true French variety is to take a leaf and place it on the tip of your tongue. If it tingles, it’s French tarragon.
The problem with French tarragon is that it is totally herbaceous which means that it dies down in winter. The plant isn’t lost, it’s just waiting under the ground until the weather warms up again in spring. When this happens, it will start to send up weedy looking grey leaves which will soon grow to be quite robust and even stronger than the previous year. Understanding this growth habit is the secret to growing great French tarragon.
French tarragon can’t be grown from seed so production nurseries grow it from cuttings but they have to wait for the ‘mother plants’ to shoot up in spring and then, of course, these cuttings have to grow to a size that is large enough to sell. This means that French tarragon plants aren’t usually available in garden centres until middle to late spring and then they are snapped up really quickly because gardeners are just so keen to grow them!
So, once you’ve managed to get your hands on your own French tarragon, you’re going to want to make sure that you look after it so that it lasts for many years.
My advice is always to grow French tarragon in a pot and always use premium potting mix. The reason for the pot is so that the plant doesn’t get lost in the garden in winter when it totally dies down. Once it has disappeared, it might accidentally be dug up so at least when it is in a pot, it can just sit through winter until the weather warms up.
In its first year, plant the French tarragon in a pot that is about 30cm wide and 30cm deep; it can even be a little smaller as this is one of the few herbs that likes to grow in a snug pot. The pot probably only needs watering every second day except through the heat of summer when it will need daily watering. If its been planted in premium potting mix, it probably won’t need any more fertilising until early autumn when some controlled release fertiliser can be added.
As the weather cools, the French tarragon will look a bit mottly and might even look like it’s dead. When this happens, cut off the stalks and put the pot aside for the winter; it won’t need watering at all.
Then, at the beginning of spring, watch for the new growth to appear. If you want to grow your own French tarragon seedlings, use a knife to carefully cut a few of the small clumps out of the soil making sure that some roots are still attached and plant these into a pot with premium potting mix. Add some more controlled release fertiliser to the original plant in spring as well.
Finally, if you don’t try cooking any other dish with French tarragon, you really need to try chicken with a creamy French tarragon sauce. Magnifique!