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Testing out Russian tarragon

A keen vege gardener will often try to grow a few new veges each year. And I believe the same should apply to herbs. The classics of parsleychives and basil will always have a place in gardeners’ kitchens. But how about testing your green-fingers out on some Russian tarragon this summer?

Russian tarragon is a hardy perennial herb. Its taste can be likened to a cross between parsley and chervil (French parsley). It’s quite a lanky plant and can grow up to 80cm tall. It has slender stems, covered in skinny green leaves.

Often confused with French tarragon, the Russian variety is hardier and more vigorous. Both types have a distinctive sweet aniseed flavour, but the Russian variety is milder. And most importantly (well, arguably), the Russian type is easier to grow as well.

Tarragon flavour is suited to chicken and fish. Sprinkle over a whole roast chicken, or fresh fish.  Also use sparingly to shake over poached eggs, fresh asparagus and roasted potatoes.

Tarragon is the key herb ingredient in bearnaise sauce – and is also a popular herb used in flavouring vinegars. You’ll also find tarragon in tartare sauce, alongside capers. 

You can buy your Russian tarragon seedlings from our Awapuni Nurseries shop and have them delivered direct to your door. We ship all over New Zealand, including Great Barrier and the Chatham Islands. Our seedlings arrive wrapped in newspaper, and we guarantee you’ll be satisfied. If you’re not, we will happily replace them.

Tarragon likes a fertile, sunny and well-drained spot in your garden. Because it grows higher than most edibles, place it at the back of your vege or herb garden. Once you’ve found your perfect spot to plant your seedlings, dig in some compost and blood and bone fertiliser.

Now you’re ready to plant. Dig holes roughly 3cm deep and space the seedlings in them, 45cm apart. Give them a good initial watering. But don’t over fertilise, as this can makes the leaves thicker, which reduces their flavour.

You can also plant tarragon in pots. Use a large pot to avoid the tarragon becoming root bound – as this can reduce the flavour of the herb.

Coming into summer, you can add a few tarragon leaves to your salads for a mild aniseed flavour. Or try making some herb butter by whizzing up a couple small bunches of tarragon leaves, and 150gm of butter. Store in the fridge, or freeze into ice trays, to use on your steamed veges. The blocks will keep in a zip-lock bag in the freezer for up to a year.

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