How to Cook and Grow

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Seldom used to its full potential, tarragon is an important herb in the kitchen garden. An essential in the classic French herb mix called fines herbes, it pairs beautifully with lamb, chicken, fish and vegetables. From the same genus as wormwood, the flavouring for vermouth and absinthe, tarragon is a perennial, which can be difficult to grow and maintain successfully. Don’t be fooled by Russian tarragon, which is the poorer relation to the French variety, it has no taste or smell and I cannot understand why garden centres still insist upon selling it in their shops as a culinary herb.

French Tarragon

How to Grow

I rarely bother growing tarragon from seed, preferring instead to buy a plant from a reputable supplier who will not try and fob me off with Russian tarragon. Left alone tarragon will spread quite rapidly producing bunches of aromatic leaves from June to October. Protect the plant from the elements as much as possible and plant in well-drained soil. Nip out any flowering shoots to encourage fresh supplies of healthy leaves.

How to Cook

Although tarragon does dry well I prefer to use the fresh leaves as and when they are available, freeze dried tarragon doesn’t bear thinking about and when you have made a sauce béarnaise, that wonderful hollandaise sauce with the addition of fresh tarragon you will understand why dried tarragon is such a faux pas. Use tarragon in moderation, it is a strong herb which, left unchecked will overpower your food. Tear small pieces from the leaf and add to fish sauces, butters or meat glazes at the last moment to avoid discolouring the finished dish.

Content and picture © Miles Collins