Tarragon or Estragon

Updated: Sep 4

Tarragon, also known as estragon, is a species of perennial herb in the family Asteraceae grown for its leaves which are used a culinary herb. The origin of the plant is unknown but it has a wide distribution which covers Europe, parts of Asia and North America. The botanical name of tarragon is Artemisia dracunculus. It's hardy and easy to grow in a sunny or partially shaded spot in well-drained soil.



The tarragon plant is erect with slender, often branching stems and simple needle-like leaves which are glossy green and very aromatic. The plant produces a drooping head at the end of the stem which contains up to 40 yellow-green florets. Tarragon can live for many years, dying back in the Winter and regrowing in Spring. Tarragon may be referred to by their cultivar group and these include French tarragon and Russian Tarragon.


Table of Contents


Height(Avg)

1 - 8 feet


Width-Circumference (Avg)

1 - 2 feet


Approximate pH

6.0 - 7.5


Types of Tarragon


There are actually two types of Tarragon. The French one is more widely available and has a stronger flavor than the Russian variety.


French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa)



Artemisia dracunculus sativa is a popular herb that's very easy to grow. French tarragon is the most common to grow in an herb garden. It reaches 2 feet tall and wide.


Spanish tarragon (Tagetes lucida)



Spanish also known as Mexican tarragon. Mexican mint tarragon has a flavor very similar to French tarragon, although slightly richer; it also has small golden flowers.


Russian tarragon (Artemisia dracunculoides Pursch)



Artemisia dracunculus subsp. dracunculoides is prized for its anise-flavor foliage. It's more pungent, vigorous, and hardier than French tarragon. Russian tarragon grows 5 feet tall and 2 feet wide. Russian tarragon, while available on the market, has much less flavoring and isn’t popular for culinary use.


Planting Tarragon


When to Plant Tarragon


Tarragon is best planted in early spring, after the last spring frost. If your area has harsh winters, you may want to start young plants indoors first before transplanting it to the garden.

Tarragon is a perennial herb, meaning that it will die back in the winter but return again in spring, so if your winters stay above -10 degrees Fahrenheit you can plant your tarragon once and watch the plant regrow every spring. If your winters are especially cold, you will need to replant your tarragon every year.


How to Plant an Established Tarragon Plant

Tarragon is unique among herbs in that it cannot be grown from seed—French tarragon seeds are sterile and will never germinate. Instead, you’ll need to plant an already-sprouted tarragon plant or cuttings from an established plant. To plant an already-established tarragon plant:

  1. Choose and prepare the soil bed. Tarragon prefers full sun but will tolerate partial shade. For the soil, opt for well-draining, sandy soil—tarragon will do much better in dry soil than wet soil. Make sure to pick a spot in the garden bed with at least a foot of space in each direction or grow it in a pot to keep it contained—tarragon’s root system often spreads quickly and wildly underground (giving it the nickname “little dragon”).

  2. Plant the tarragon. If you’re planting a sprouted tarragon plant, plant it in a hole just a few inches wider and deeper than its root ball. If you want to keep tarragon contained in your garden, plant it in a pot underground to prevent the roots from spreading.

  3. Water. Immediately after planting, water the area gently to help the soil settle.


How to Plant Tarragon from Stem Cuttings

To begin your tarragon plant from stem cuttings:

  1. Choose and prepare the soil bed. Tarragon cuttings grow best when started indoors in a sunny windowsill. For the soil, opt for well-draining potting soil.

  2. Select and prepare the stems. If you’re cutting from a friend’s established tarragon plant, cut stems that are six to eight inches long, cutting them just below a node of leaves. Strip the leaves from the lower third of each stem. For the fastest results, dip the bottom of each stem in rooting hormone to encourage root growth—however, this step isn’t necessary.

  3. Plant the cuttings. Plant each cutting by burying the lower inch of the stem in potting soil.

  4. Keep moist. While the new plants are growing roots and getting established, keep the soil evenly moist.

  5. Transplant to the garden. After four weeks, your cuttings should have grown roots. Transplant each cutting to the garden, giving each plant a foot of space on each side for growth.


Tarragon Care


Light


French Tarragon, unlike many other herbs, isn't a fan of direct sun in hot climates. Full sun is fine if you don't live somewhere too hot, but otherwise, select somewhere that will provide dappled or early morning sun only. Warm, rather than intense heat, conditions are what this plant does best with.


Soil


Tarragon doesn't like wet conditions. It's a drought-resistant herb and needs a well-drained, sandy, light soil for best growth. A rich, acidic, moist soil will result in poor growth, rotting roots and a reduced flavor.


Water


How much you water your Tarragon will depend on the weather conditions and the maturity of the plant.


Young Tarragon will benefit from watering on alternate days if you're experiencing prolonged hot, dry spells. Mature Tarragon, however, should be fine with a light watering every few days. Check the top inch of soil before watering. If it's moist, no need to water, If it's dry, give it a drink.


These plants can cope in dry ground, and care should be taken not to overwater as this will diminish growth and flavor intensity. Although Tarragon will survive with little water, if it's left too dry, it can impact on the growth of the leaves.


Temperature and Humidity


This hardy plant is not too fussy about temperatures. It can still grow if a cold snap hits. The main thing is that Tarragon doesn't like intense heat and sun and it doesn't do well in high humidity.


In very cold conditions, you would be best to put mulch around the plant in winter to help protect the roots when it dies back and goes into dormancy.


Fertilizer


Tarragon doesn't need fertilizer to do well. The best flavor is achieved when it's planted in low-nutrient soil. If you're going to use some, an all-purpose variety should only be applied in the initial planting stage.


Propagating Tarragon


French Tarragon can only be grown by propagation or by buying an established plant. This herb doesn't flower much and, when it does, the flowers are sterile. If you can get a stem cutting from an existing plant in late spring or early summer, you should have good success in propagating the plant.


For best results, select a young stem and cut a length of around five or six inches. Remove the leaves from the bottom third. The stem can then be placed in moist potting soil after being dipped in rooting hormone.


It's also possible to use root division techniques. This is best done in late fall or early spring. You could cut the root ball in half and plant the division in fresh soil in containers or directly into the ground. Because tarragon is a short-lived perennial, root division every three years helps continue your tarragon production in the garden.


Harvesting


Being a perennial herb, French Tarragon can be harvested up until the end of the summer (usually May through to the end of August).


You can start harvesting once the stems reach about six inches tall. By keeping the flower buds trimmed back during the peak growing season, this will help ensure that any leaves harvested will retain their best flavor, and it'll promote the most generous and bushy growth.


The leaves are best used fresh, but they also work well when dried or frozen providing they are not left for too long.


Pests and Plant Diseases

  • Pests: Tarragon has no serious pest problems.

  • Diseases: Tarragon is susceptible to downy mildew, powdery mildew, and root rot where the soil or plants stay wet. Avoid planting French tarragon where water collects or where leaves are slow to dry.


Benefits of Tarragon


Antioxidant Properties


Like many herbs and plants, tarragon can boast excellent antioxidant properties. It is important that we take advantage of nature’s antioxidants because they help keep the body in the best working order.


Antioxidants help protect the body from cellular damage caused by free radicals and neutralize their effect. For this reason, antioxidants help protect the body from numerous serious illnesses and also help stave off aging.


Tarragon Benefits to Skin


Tarragon is also used to cleanses skin. The residue obtained from the distilled, steamed tarragon leaves is a great antioxidant and cleans impurities from the skin. The leaves are crushed, grinded and mixed in the preparation of soaps and body washes. A great source of potassium, it helps to destroy germs and bacteria.


To Improve Digestive Health


Tarragon has traditionally been consumed as a general digestive tonic. It can increase the liver’s production of bile which is vital for efficient digestion. Eating tarragon or drinking a cup of tarragon tea can help settle the stomach and relieve a variety of symptoms related to poor digestion.


These include gas, bloating, dyspepsia and stomach irritation. It has also been used traditionally to treat and eliminate intestinal parasites.


To stimulate the Appetite


Tarragon is often used to boost the appetite which is especially useful for people recovering from sickness or a course of treatment. As tarragon herb benefits itself can be used on cooking to boost the appetite and many people find that its essential oil has a similar effect. Many older people suffer from their poor appetites and tarragon may be a great help for them.


As a Sedative


Tarragon appears to have mild sedative qualities. Of course, there are no guarantees and what works for one person may not work for the next. However, a cup of tarragon tea after a stressful day at the office may take the edge off your nerves. It might also help you to get a good night’s sleep if you re suffering from insomnia. It is certainly worth a go especially considering its other many health benefits.


For the Heart


The antioxidants contained in tarragon can help keep your body’s most important organs functioning properly and that includes your cardiovascular system. This protects us from two stroke and heart attack which are two of the deadliest killers in the modern world.


For Eye Health


Tarragon is rich in beta carotene which is known to be essential for healthy eye function. Adding plenty of tarragon to your diet might protect against any future degeneration of the eyes.


To Build Muscle


Tarragon Recent research has demonstrated that the Russian variety of tarragon can help people to build muscle and improve their body composition. The study which was published in 2014 backed up some previous studies by finding that tarragon helps increase creatine absorption in the muscles. This is a similar effect to the absorption that happens when a person eats a large amount of carbohydrate.


This is significant because if tarragon works in the same way, then people do not need to carbo-load in order to improve muscle mass. Not only is this good news for body builders but it may have potential for people looking to control their weight and improve overall body shape.


For Female Health


Tarragon has emmenagogue properties and may be a useful natural aid for women with irregular or suppressed menstruation. It has also been used by women to maintain overall reproductive health. Because of its potential to stimulate menstruation, it is not recommended for pregnant women to use it in large doses.


For Toothache


Tarragon is an excellent natural remedy for those awful toothaches that usually have us rushing to the pharmacy for a pain relief remedy. There is written evidence that the herb has been used to treat toothaches since ancient Greece because it has the ability to dull and numb oral pain.


People in those days simply chewed on the leaves to ease the pain. Its pain relieving qualities is due to the high level of eugenol present in the herb. Eugenol is the same compound found in clove oil and is the reason that clove is such a popular remedy for the teeth.

Not only does tarragon help relieve toothache but it can also be used to ease gum inflammation and pain which often accompanies toothache.

One effective way to treat your dental pain is to make a gargle mix by adding a few drops of tarragon essential oil to a glass of water. With any luck, it will ease your pain and it should also ensure your breath smells nice and fresh.


Uses

  • Tarragon is used as a fragrance in soaps and cosmetics.

  • Tarragon is used as a culinary herb.

  • The tarragon leaves are principally used as an additive in soups and pizzas.


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