TARRAGON: DESCRIPTION AND PLANTING

Artemisia dracunculus COMPOSITAE

French tarragon-is an almost purely culinary herb, having very little folk-lore or tradition behind it. Its bitter-sweet delicate flavour seems to typify the essence of French cuisine, although the plant was originally taken from Russian stock. Russian tarragon is reputed to be hardier and more vigorous and to have a stronger taste; but my own experience with French tarragon has proved to me that time spent in preparation of a good home for it in open sunshine can see it grow so abundantly as to rival its Russian parent in size without any loss of flavour delicacy. Experimenting with French tarragon, I put one small plant in early spring in a deeply dug bed, with blood and bone well under its roots and a soil rich in natural compost, in full open sunshine, and gave it plenty of water in the early settling-in period. Before the end of the summer, the bush was 2 feet high and 4 feet across, and some fifty-odd new plants had been dug and potted out from around its base. So I smile when told that French tarragon grows small and weedy.

In another part of the garden, in the partial shade of shrubs, but in otherwise similar conditions, I then planted a second tarragon. Sure enough, it grew thin and straggly as the books had foretold. It seems that in warmer climates tarragon can have, and indeed should have, the open sunshine not recommended for it in English and Continental conditions. I have since proved to my own satisfaction that this is so. Tarragon should be in your sunniest herb bed, with room to cascade sideways if it wishes. Leave an area about four feet across when setting it out in the garden. With well-fed soil, it should fill this space before the end of one growing season.

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