Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa
The French tarragon is a loose and open perennial that can reach 60 to 90 cm in height. The leaves are dark green, narrow and slightly twisted. The plant occasionally produces small greenish flowers that are sterile. The leaves have a liquorice or anise flavour.
Genuine French tarragon is only available as plants from cuttings or root divisions. As French tarragon produces sterile flowers, it cannot be grown from seeds. Seeds that are sold as tarragon in seed displays or catalogues are Russian tarragon seeds (Artemisia dracunculus dracunculoides). It is a much larger, coarser plant and its culinary use is considered inferior because it does not have the odour and flavour characteristics of French tarragon.
The French tarragon prefers a place in full sunlight but tolerates a light shade. Soils must be well prepared with organic matter and well drained. Tarragon does not tolerate poorly drained soils, especially in cold weather, because plants do not overwinter well. The plants are divided every 3-4 years to keep the plantation vigorous and productive. Cut plants in the spring when growth resumes. Leaving the peaks upright during the winter improves the chances of wintering.
Young stem tips and leaves can be harvested as needed throughout the season. Because the flavour of tarragon is quickly lost if the leaves are dried, it is suggested that this herb be used in its fresh form as much as possible for a better flavour. It is best to dry the tarragon in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place and, once dried, quickly place it in sealed containers.