5

I grew some tarragon this year, but didn't have the opportunity to use it until a couple weeks ago. However during harvest I didn't get the licorice smell, so I crushed it and still no smell. I chewed a tiny bit of it between my front teeth and spit it out, but it tasted like plain green leaf, like grass.

Did I get a tasteless lookalike or did I somehow not give it what it needs to have any flavor?

When I say tasteless, I mean there was no way to tell at all that this wasn't just a tasteless weed.

For all other intents and purposes though, it sure looked just like the tarragon I used to grow years ago. Maybe I'll take a picture tonight and add it to the question.

New update 3/30/2016:

Ok so after last fall's discussion and this being a new spring, I did my research and made sure that I would get French tarragon for my herb gardens this spring. I was looking for sources for plants but all the nurseries are saying not for several more weeks. I am thinking to myself why? It is supposed to be a cool weather plant, but ok. So I go to Home Depot, by some root hormone and off the the grocery store where I can buy fresh sprigs of tarragon. I buy to boxes giving me about 20 sprigs to play with as cuttings. I put them in a bucket of water to make sure they can get rehydrated after being in a plastic tube for too long...the next day they look chipper. I get to cutting them up and defoliating the stems and I thought, I'll try one of these leaves and feel good about that nice anise flavor.

No taste, again. Ok maybe a touch of taste, but not at all what I remember and this time from a sprigs sold as French tarragon in the produce section of the grocer for use in food. Listen I am not looking for an herb that's as strong as licorice candy, that's not the problem, the problem is I can barely tell if these leaves have any anise taste at all to them. I even balled up several leaves and chewed them up...nothing.

So now I am getting frustrated. And I am looking all over the web trying to find some hint of why, and I run into something I hadn't expected.

In this question and the comments to answers, I mention tiny yellow flowers. Well when I found pictures of Russian tarragon flowers, well they didn't look all that tiny, and to be quite honest they didn't look anything like the flowers I remembered. So I looked at some more tarragon flower pictures until I found what I had...it looks like what I had been growing all those years ago, may have been Mexican tarragon which is actually a variety of marigold. That explains why I was able to grow nice flavorful tarragon from natural reseeding. It also explains why I was able to grow it all year long even in the Florida summer. It is considered and acceptable substitute, but that really leaves me wondering. That tarragon was very strong licorice flavored, and none of these artemisia tarragons seem to have any flavor at all.

Am I missing something here? Should I really be looking for Mexican tarragon for the real tarragon flavor? That kinda throws me for a purist loop.

Update 3/20/2019 -- Haha, I forgot about this question. So as it turns out, I helped Stop And Shop discover they were getting russion tarragon delivered as french tarragon. Once that was solved and they got a new shippment in, I was able to produce the cuttings I mentioned above. They've lived in pots the last two years and were put in the ground next to my foundation on the south facing side of the house this past fall. I am hoping they made it through the winter so I am not rooting out cuttings from the grocery store again.

  • Hi Escoce! I'd appreciate a picture if you have time. I don't know what tarragon looks like, so in case there are other people like me, a picture to go with the question would be a big help. Thanks! – Sue Nov 9 '15 at 16:23
  • Yep, I'll try to tonight if I remember to – Escoce Nov 9 '15 at 16:29
8

There absolutely is a tasteless tarragon. It's usually called Russian Tarragon. The plant that you want for cooking is French Tarragon. Russian tarragon grows from seed and reseeds itself easily. French tarragon does not, so you will need to purchase a plant from a nursery or get a cutting or division from a friend. Tarragon is often mislabeled, so I would definitely taste a leaf off a plant before buying it to make sure I was getting a properly labeled one.

  • Thanks...I bough the seeds from the veg section at the garden store. I was pretty surprised when the whole batch was tasteless. I figured there must be a lookalike weed that invaded their source garden. I never heard of Russian tarragon before. I have heat of Russian Sage which looks and smells a lot like a potent lavender. – Escoce Nov 9 '15 at 16:02
  • By the way though, the tarragon I used to grow was a culture and it was the tasty culinary variety. It did reseed all on its own (little yellow flowers and tiny black seeds) as I use very large pots for things like basil and tarragon for just said reason of the seeds falling into the pot to keep the culture moving forward. – Escoce Nov 9 '15 at 16:05
  • I think you might have been very lucky with the last tarragon plant you had. French tarragon almost never flowers, and even when it does, I've never heard of it setting seed. That tells me you probably did not have french tarragon. I have heard some people say that they grew Russian tarragon and it tasted good for a few years, then the flavor faded. Because it is from seed, there is a chance that you happened to have a seedling with the genes for good flavor last time. – michelle Nov 9 '15 at 17:47
  • Also, unlike sage and Russian sage which are botanically two completely different plants, Russian tarragon and French tarragon are both true tarragons. – michelle Nov 9 '15 at 17:48
  • I had a 24 inch pot with a culture in it. I lived in Florida at the time and the culture lasted for years, constantly refreshing itself. The licorice-ness of it was pretty potent and very pleasant. – Escoce Nov 9 '15 at 17:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.