Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus; Compositae)

Description

An evergreen perennial, hardy unless the weather is very cold or the soil badly drained, particularly in winter; to 2 ft (60 cm) tall, spreading to 2 ft (60 cm) also. Leaves narrow and linear, with insignificant greyish flowers. The French variety is the best to grow because of its flavour. Origin, southern Europe, introduced 1548.

Uses

The leaves have an unusual and particularly pleasing

flavour, and are used to make tarragon vinegar and for all sorts of savoury dishes. Also for sauce tartare and Continental mustard.

History

Although a very popular herb in culinary quarters, it has virtually no medical history; the common name is derived from the French estragon, a little dragon, — it was thought to be of use in healing the stings of venomous animals. In Tudor days, it was grown only in the Royal gardens.

Cultivation

A well-drained, even dryish soil is essential, and preferably a sunny sheltered place, though an exposed site will do, if the soil is light. Plant in spring or September at 2 ft (60 cm) apart, and transplant about four years after the original planting, to maintain the flavour. Increase by division in spring. Seed does not set in this country. Protect in severe weather. Container cultivation is not easy, but the skilled gardener may like to pot up a few plants.

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