Growing Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus)
Artemisia dracunculus sativa
Tarragon, a perennial plant, is available in two forms — Russian, Artemesia dracunculus inodora, and French, Artemesia dracunculus sativa. Buy only the French variety: Russian tarragon is greatly inferior in quality and, unlike French tarragon, will readily set seed. French tarragon is a superb herb, so good that even the most pallid frozen fowls become transformed when flavoured with its leaves. It is also added todishes, casseroles, and salads and used for flavouring wine vinegar.
It is not absolutely hardy, so it is sensible to buy young, plants in the spring to avoid losses over the first winter. The plants are usually sold in 50 or 75 mm (2 or 3 in) pots. Although they can be planted out in the garden, they will thrive in pots and so save space in your kitchen plot. Immediately after purchase, pot on the plants into 125 or 150 mm (5 or 6 in) pots with John Innes No 2 or 3. Later in the season pot on again, into 180 or 230 mm (7 or 9 in) pots, using similar compost. Keep the compost moist and feed the plants regularly with a diluted liquid fertiliser. As you pot up into the larger pots, a small portion of each plant should be carefully prised away (make sure it has roots as well as a stem portion) and planted in a small pot with John Innes No 2. These divisions should be taken in the summer so that the young plants can gain strength before the winter. Keep the divisions in a more sheltered spot than the main plants in case of loss. As the plants age they tend to deteriorate and the new plants you have started should then be used to replace them, with the same procedure of potting on being carried out. Tarragon favours a warm, sunny site, preferably against a south-west-facing wall; it will reach a height of 600-900 mm (2-3 ft).
Harvest the young stems with leaves as required. If you are using the leaves to flavour wine vinegar, make sure they are thoroughly dry.
Site: Sunny, sheltered
Soil: J I No 2 or 3 compost; or most well-drained soils
Harvest: As required