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French Tarragon, Artemisia dracunculus – a half hardy perennial herb

French Tarragon is a half hardy perennial herb that is native of Southern Europe, Caspian Sea, and Siberia. It is fairly tender – which may be one of the reasons that it is not particularly widely grown – but it is easy to grow, and well worth it for its culinary uses. French tarragon has a much finer flavour than its hardier, more widely grown, Russian cousin.
It grows to 90cm (3ft) and spreads 45cm (18in) and is known as little dragon. Its oil has hot effect that is extracted from the roots. “dracunculus” means dragon like. It was a known myth that this herb keeps the mystical beast away. Artemisia means the Greek goddess of war and love.
Its leaves are known to cure toothache, snakebites and mad dog bites. It belongs to daisy family and bears insignificant and attractive flowers, though the flowers are rare. These plants are aromatic. They are used in perfumes, drinks, flavouring and medicines. It has anti-malarial properties. The leaves of this plant taste as if to contain pepper, balsam and anise. The flavour is generally described as ‘fennel, anise, liquorice and sweet cicely’. In food, they are added in salads, vinegars, pickles, chicken, fish and rice dishes. It is an ingredient of Herbes de Provence, bouquet garni and fines herbes and Sauce Bearnaise.
Its stems are long and slender. They bear dark green and stems are spiky which are about an inch in length. They grow slowly from underground rhizomes. They have sterile cloves and cannot be grown from seed as they rarely flower.

Growing conditions for French Tarragon:

• This plant needs full sun.
• This plant needs light, well-drained soil.
• The planting site should be protected from winds and winter frosts.
• In dry weather, water the plant well.
• In autumn it is best to mulch these plants with a thick layer of bracken or straw so that it is protected over the winter.
• This plant is usually propagated by division, or from cuttings.
• Division should be done in autumn or early spring.
• Cut the piece of root to about 8-10cm (3-4in) in length.
• Place this root in well drained organic cuttings mix.
• Plant after the last frost in spring is passed.
• Root spacing should be about 6- to 8-inch with stem cuttings in moist sand.
• Set plants 18 to 24 inches apart and space rows 24 to 36 inches apart.

Care for French tarragon:

• Water as required without drying out in between watering.
• Foliar spray the plant with compost tea or a seaweed extract.
• Divide every 3 to 4 years for the plants to grow vigorously.
• Mulch the plant after the first frost.
• Avoid the plant site where water collects.
• Tarragon can be attacked by downy mildew, powdery mildew, and root rot where the soil or plants stay wet.

Images of plant French Tarragon on Google Search.

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