We offer two types of tarragon: Artemisia dracunculus, French tarragon, and Tagetes lucida, Mexican tarragon. French tarragon is the kind referred to in most recipes, but Mexican tarragon makes a great alternative and has nearly identical flavor.
French Tarragon is perennial.* It is actually from Russia! There is a subspecies which is referred to as Russian tarragon; it has a less pleasant flavor and is not at all preferred for cooking. We do not carry Russian tarragon, only the French with the better flavor.
*A few of my books recommend planting it in a more sheltered location or covering with loose straw, so that if we have an unusually cold winter it has some protection.
Mexican tarragon is annual in our area.
Sun vs Shade?
Full sun for both.
Size? Planting tips?
French: 1.5-3 feet tall and 12-15 inches wide; plant 2 ft apart and divide every 2 or 3 years.
Mexican: 12-32 inches tall and 18 inches wide.
What’s the difference? Which one should I buy?
Both have similar flavor, which is strong and anise-like. (If you don’t know what anise is, it kind of like licorice. But different.)
French tarragon is perennial, which is a benefit. But its leaves are smaller, and it grows more slowly, so if you are using it regularly or in large amounts you may need more plants. Mexican tarragon grows quickly and has bigger leaves, which make it a better option if you need a lot of it. You can always grow it in a planter and cart it indoors when it gets cold.
Some culinary uses:
Mexican tarragon was traditionally used as a flavoring in the Aztec drink chocólatl.
Use leaves of either kind (fresh, for best flavor) for chicken, egg dishes, in salad dressing or infused in oil or vinegar, and in sauces like béarnaise, hollandaise, and tartar. Flavor mayonnaise to accompany fish.
To see all 2010 plants, check the Complete List of Varieties.