Tarragons: Plant Care and Collection of Varieties

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French tarragon is an essential herb for many cooks. It is frequently used in salads and sauces, as well as chicken dishes. It can also be used to flavor oils and vinegars.

About tarragons
Be cautious when purchasing tarragon. French tarragon is often confused with Russian tarragon, a weedy plant with little value in cooking. French tarragon is a hardy perennial that can only be grown from tip cuttings of new growth, root cuttings, or divisions. If you see tarragon seed for sale, it's probably the less desirable Russian variety.

Choosing a site to grow tarragons
This herb does well in full sun or partial shade and well-drained soil.

Ongoing Care
Prune the plants to prevent flowering and to keep the height down to 2 feet so they don't flop over. In central and northern states, mulch plants in late fall to protect the roots over the winter. Divide the plants every 3 to 4 years to keep them healthy and vigorous.

Planting Instructions
Purchase plants, or if you have a friend with an established tarragon bed, get plants in early spring by dividing each established plant into two or three. New plants can also be derived from stem cuttings of new growth or from root cuttings in the spring or fall. Space plants about 2 to 3 feet apart to give them room to spread.

How to harvest tarragons
Leaves are best used fresh in early summer or frozen for later use. Drying some of the harvest is also an option, but the leaves can lose a lot of their flavor if left to dry too long. Pack them in airtight containers as soon as they are dry.

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