My friend Emma has started Project Nosh to eat as many of the edible plants in her garden before she moves.
One of the plants Emma wants ideas for is French tarragon (artemisia dracunculus). The dracunculus in the Latin name means ‘Little Dragon’, perhaps referring to the teeth like shape of the leaves or its serpent like roots. I promised to blog a recipe for tarragon vinegar so that Emma could take the wonderful warm anise flavour with her.
To find out more about how we grow tarragon and for the recipe please read on.
Tips how to grow tarragon
The tarragon in the picture above was split up and moved from my little polytunnel to the big one in spring. It’s recovered really well. Tarragon does repay splitting up regularly. It’s a great gift to give too. My tarragon has gone as far as Rome, Wiltshire and Hertfordshire this year.
I’m planting the big polytunnel as a big type of forest garden. I’ll blog more about this soon. For the tarragon it means being planted under a Kiwi ‘Jenny’ and then planted around it are lettuces, a strawberry and nasturtium. I’ve planted some fenugreek next to it as a green manure and curry crop for ‘methi’.
The tarragon sprouts from its roots in spring, produces stalk of up to 1m which then flowers in late summer. It will then die back in the winter. We’ve tried growing outdoors. Some years it survived but some not. So we now plant it in the polytunnel for protection. It’s a plant that spreads by its roots. So if you grow it outside it’s good to give it plenty of space. Or plant in a pot and move it indoors for the winter.
When you harvest the fronds, take no more than two-thirds of the stalk. The stalk will resprout from the leaf axils.
You can propagate tarragon by dividing the roots in spring. Or you can take stem cuttings in the summer. French tarragon does not set viable seed. If you are offered tarragon seed it’s for a much rougher variety of Russian tarragon.
Tarragon vinegar recipe
I’ll give you the quantity here to make 500ml, the recipe will scale up or down easily.
500ml white wine or cider vinegar
2 or 3 sprigs of fresh tarragon less than the height of your bottle, washed if necessary and well dried. Leave the leaves on the stalks.
1 sprig of tarragon for bottle identification (needed later)
Heat the vinegar in a saucepan till just warm but not boiling (about 40°C). The slight heat helps brings the volatile oils containing the flavour out into the liquid. It’s not essential, but I think you get a fuller flavour if you do this.
Pop the tarragon sprigs into your chosen bottle and pour on the warmed vinegar. Cap the bottle and pop it on a sunny windowsill. Shake gently every day or so and leave for 2-3 weeks.
Take out the tarragon sprigs and replace with the fresh sprig to identify the bottle. Or just label the bottle. With some herbs you may need to strain the vinegar through muslin or a coffee filter before you re-bottle.
Uses & variations
You can use any fresh herb you like with this technique. It’s also great for capturing the flavour of edible flowers such as lavender, pinks, nasturtiums, elderflowers, primroses, violets and roses.