In the Garden
Mexican tarragon (Tagetes lucida) grows all spring and summer before it produces many yellow, single marigold-like blossoms, but that is just a bonus because the main reason to grow it is for the flavored leaves. In warm climates, its anise-like flavor makes it a substitute for French tarragon, which often withers in heat.
Plant it in an herb garden, flower bed, or container. Let Mexican tarragon be the bright spot in your herb garden, which often needs a boost by summer’s end. The upright plants pair well with other fall bloomers such as pineapple sage. Plants bloom lightly in the spring, then profusely in the fall.
Soil, Planting, and Care
Although grown as an annual in most of the country, Mexican tarragon is a half-hardy perennial in warmer regions, where it comes back vigorously from the roots in spring. In climates where it never dies down from frost, keep it trimmed. When planting, space plants 18 to 24 inches apart.
Plants need full sun or partial shade and must have well-drained soil. Given that, they grow easily and without fuss. Although drought tolerant, they will be fuller and bloom best if kept moist. If stems fall over and touch the ground, they will take root, causing plants to spread. They also reseed.
Plants are not bothered by pests, but be sure to plant them in a spot that drains well or the roots can rot.
Harvest and Storage
Snip fresh sprigs as needed, beginning in spring. Before frost, harvest the stems by cutting them at the base and letting them air dry on a screen, or bundle a few together at the base to hang upside-down to dry.
Substitute Mexican tarragon for French tarragon in equal proportions. The flavor breaks down more quickly when heated, so it is best to add it at the end of cooking. Also called yerba anise, Mexican tarragon is an ingredient in Mexican and Southwestern cuisine. You will find that it goes by many names: Texas tarragon, false tarragon, Mexican mint marigold, winter tarragon, yerba anise, hierba de anis, hierba de San Juan, and pericon.
I live in the Southeast. Should I grow French tarragon or Mexican tarragon?