Tarragon





(Artemisia Dracunculus, Linn.), a fairly hardy, herbaceous

rather shrubby perennial of the Compositae, supposed to be a native of

southern Russia, Siberia, and Tartary, cultivated for scarcely more

than 500 years for its leaves and tender shoots. In all civilized

countries its popular name, like its specific name, means dragon, though

why it should be so called is not clear.






Description.--The plant has numerous branching stems, which bear

lance-shaped leaves and nowadays white, sterile flowers. Formerly the

flowers were said to be fertile. No one should buy the seed offered as

tarragon. It is probably that of a related plant which resembles

tarragon in everything except flavor--which is absent! Tagetes lucida,

which may be used as a substitute for true tarragon, is easily

propagated by seed and can be procured from seedsmen under its own name.

As tarragon flowers appear to be perfect, it is possible that some

plants may produce a few seeds, and that plants raised from these seeds

may repeat the wonder. Indeed, a variety which naturally produces seed

may thus be developed and disseminated. Here is one of the possible

opportunities for the herb grower to benefit his fellow-men.



Cultivation.--At present tarragon is propagated only by cuttings,

layers and division. There is no difficulty in either process. The plant

prefers dry, rather poor soil, in a warm situation. In cold climates it

should be partially protected during the winter to prevent alternate

freezing and thawing of both the soil and the plant. In moist and heavy

soil it will winterkill. Strawy litter or conifer boughs will serve the

purpose well. Half a dozen to a dozen plants will supply the needs of a

family. As the plants spread a good deal and as they grow 15 to 18

inches tall, or even more, they should be set in rows 18 to 24 inches

apart each way. In a short time they will take possession of the ground.



Uses.--The tender shoots and the young leaves are often used in

salads, and with steaks, chops, etc., especially by the French. They are

often used as an ingredient in pickles. Stews, soups, croquettes, and

other meat preparations are also flavored with tarragon, and for

flavoring fish sauces it is especially esteemed.



Probably the most popular way it is employed, however, is as a decoction

in vinegar. For this purpose, the green parts are gathered preferably in

the morning and after washing are placed in jars and covered with the

best quality vinegar for a few days. The vinegar is then drawn off as

needed. In France, the famous vinegar of Maille is made in this way.



The leaves may be dried in the usual way if desired. For this purpose

they are gathered in midsummer. A second cutting may be made in late

September or early October. Tarragon oil, which is used for perfuming

toilet articles, is secured by distilling the green parts, from 300 to

500 pounds of which yield one pound of oil.





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