Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Garden Journal Entry 6/4/08:
Growing French Tarragon Again

Looks Like They Survived Their Cross Country Journey Just Fine

Realization of the Day:
This is the first time I've bought plants through the mail.

I'd actually forgotten I'd even ordered them until I arrived at the post office today and our postmistress handed me a small square box from my beloved Pinetree Garden Seeds in Maine.

Backordered seeds? I thought. And then I remembered - on a whim (and thrilled by the fact that they were only $3.98 each and there was no special shipping charge) I'd tacked two French tarragon plants onto my seed order back in March. But then a slight panic set in. I hadn't picked up the mail since last Friday. (They won't deliver our mail all the way out to the farm, and the post office is 10 miles away.) How long had they been sitting here, suffocating in a box without airholes or even a warning label that said Live Plants? (The postmistress will call and let me know if something marked 'perishable' or 'live' arrives.) Had I managed to inadvertantly kill them already?

Unable to rustle up a pocketknife, I anxiously tore open the box with the truck key and released my little live purchases from their captive darkness and immediately sprinkled them with a little water from the jug we always carry with us when we leave the farm. They seemed tired and a little peaked but otherwise fine. By the time I made it home they were already perking up. Now all I need to decide is if I should grow them in a pot or risk putting them in the ground. Hmmm. Maybe I'll tuck next to the rosemary, sage, and thyme in the greenhouse. Oh wait. I bought two - one for the ground and one for a pot. Duh. Or maybe it was one to live and one to accidentally murder.

Ordering plants by mail is exciting! Sure, I've bought strawberry starts and raspberry canes before, but they look more like little root wads and dead sticks than real live plants in real live pots of soil. Even asparagus roots are kind of on the dull side.

The label that came tucked in on of the containers cracked me up: French Tarragon - Sun - Unique Herb Robust Flavor - Harvest and Make Vinegar.

So have you ordered live plants before? What did you get? How did it go? And, more importantly, what do you like to do with French Tarragon? It's been so long since I've grown this perennial herb (and I can never get myself to buy those overpriced, usually sad-looking packets of 'fresh' herbs at the store) that I can't remember what I used to put it in.

© Copyright 2008, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres - and so far 2008 is turning out to be a very good year for herbs.


  1. I lovelovelove tarragon in salad dressings. It's especially yummy in a creamy herby lemon dressing:

    whisk together a dab of mustard, a splash of lemon juice, a splash of red wine vinegar, and a tiny drizzle of honey. now whisk in a couple of splashes of cream and maybe a glug of olive oil, then whisk in some finely chopped fresh tarragon, chives, and parsley. whisk in salt and pepper to taste and enjoy on your favorite greens!

  2. I don't have any wise words about tarragon, it isn't a herb I grow.
    But I had to chime in and say that I worked for a home-business that sold indoor plants by mail. We babied and loved and cared for those plants better than the the plants were cared for at nurseries where I have worked! I loved packing the orders and seeing what people were wanting. Growing and mailing herb plants would be so much fun!

  3. I like to order plants from a company that has a lifetime guarantee. If it dies or doesn't do well, they'll replace it for free (the exception would be annuals and veggies, that type of thing that dies every year). Some good ones are Gurney's, Springhill, and Brecks. I have no idea what to do with tarragon. I've never even bought it. Hmmm... is it something you can use like rosemary (which tastes great on a focaccia)

  4. I bought some Southernwood by mail order once on a whim.

    We had been at an old monastery garden and the Southernwood had a label on it saying it was good for repelling moths! So we thought we would give it a go. So far it hasn't grown big enough to pick to hang some in the closet to repel moths, but it is a pretty little plant with feathery leaves. And nobody ever knows what it is, which is fun!

  5. Hooray for French Tarragon. It's an herb I've been having a major fling with since last summer. My latest was Mustard Tarragon Deviled Eggs (post coming soon, hopefully today!) I did find a lot of good tarragon recipes when I wrote about Cooking with Fresh Herbs - Tarragon at Blogher.

    Truly, I've loved it in every recipe where I've tried it. Can't wait to see what you come up with.

  6. I actually won and auction for 2 blueberry plants on ebay about a month ago. They came shiped in a little box with their roots individually tied up in plastic bags with extra soil. By the time they got to me they were a little dry, but I could tell they had tried their best to make it a safe journey. I put them each in a glass of water for a few hours to rehydrate them before I planted them in pots. Its almost a month later and they seem to be doing great and showing some new growth.

    I've also won flowering tobacco seeds on ebay. They are in the ground, but I haven't seen anything from them yet. The good thing about buying seeds from someone on ebay is that you can find sellers who will sell you what you want and give you a free gift of some random seeds that might be fun to try.

  7. I have often bought plants by post but I live in the UK so the distances are much much smaller. It's a very good way of getting things that local garden centres don't stock.

    As for tarragon- chicken. Elizabeth David has a very simple and lovely recipe for Chicken with tarragon in her French Provincial Cooking. You take a 2lb roasting chicken and put an ounce of butter which has been kneaded with a tablespoon of tarragon leaves, half a clove of garlic, salt and pepper, inside the bird. Roast it on one side for half the time and then the other. She serves it with a brandy or brandy cream sauce but plain is good too.

  8. As far as tarragon, I hate it. Yeah, I know - weirdo.

    As far as ordering plants, I order every year from High Country Gardens in Santa Fe. I live in the high desert in Oregon and their plants are well-suited to our climate.

    The first year I opened my package and saw 12 little dinky plants that I had plunked down a small premium for. I was fairly disappointed, not with the quality, but with the size. By the end of the year, I was praising those plants. Compared to the larger ones I had purchased locally, these were larger and heartier than anything else.

    I buy from them every year and have not been disappointed. (Now if I could only be so lucky ordering running skirts online)

  9. I buy lots of plants from mailorder sources, especially around January when the problem of where to put them has been completely erased from my thought process by winter weather.

    The deviled eggs with tarragon sound intriguing. My favorite use for fresh tarragon is in white sauces of various types. Use the tarragon infused sauce on omelettes, fresh vegetables, etc.

  10. Since I had kids and lost my time and energy needed to grow tomatoes from seeds, I've been ordering tomatoes, peppers and eggplants from The plants are very healthy, they have a HUGE selection, and the packaging is ingenious! Sounds like I work there but I don't - I'm just a fan and since I just have backyard garden I really don't want to go to the local nursery and buy a flat of six cherry tomato plants. This way I can buy one of many varieties and pick my favorites for next year.

    As for tarragon, its great in chicken salad.

  11. I've put a sprig of tarragon in jars of green beans I canned. That worked really well. And I just put six pepper plants from Seed Savers Exchange in the ground a couple of weeks ago. They are doing great.

  12. Ditto on Tarragon in chicken salad. It's also great in tuna with a bit of olive oil, lemon, salt & pepper.

    I make Tarragon butter (lots of tarragon, fresh salt, lemon, and butter), slice it into rounds, and freeze it. That way, I always have a dab to toss on biscuits, bread, omelets, steaks, fish, etc. The gradual melt of a tarragon butter pat on a lamb steak is glorious!

    Also, I chop it fresh and toss it over eggs. Scrambled or fried, doesn't matter. It's heaven.

    About to experiment with tarragon grits. ;)

  13. When my boyfriend and I moved in together, he brought his tarragon plant with him. It was sad for a couple of years, but now is going gangbusters -- hold it's own against the mint and sage.

    He uses it with salmon. And I have a chicken and leek recipe which is pretty killer: "Tarragon Chicken Breasts with Buttered Leeks" which came via The Splendid Table, but is from The Herbal Kitchen by Jerry Traufeld. Basically, poach chicken breasts in leeks braised in chicken broth and butter. When the chicken is just done, throw in a handful of chopped tarragon and a couple teaspoons of lemon juice. We eat it with cous cous.

  14. I have French tarragon in my garden, that's the one preferred for cooking, Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa. I add it to eggs and scrambles often. I once tried the Russian tarragon A. d. var. inordora which is much more coarse and bitter tasting. I don't recommended it. There's a plant that goes by the name Mexican tarragon, a species of marigold, Tagetes lucida, which is popular out here in the Sonoma Valley and often used in cookery, not to mention it's a beautiful addition the perennial garden.

  15. I recently found your blog and it is so interesting that I decided to tag you. Maybe you won't have time for this, running a farm and all, but -- if you'd like to play, I hope you'll go to my blog Vellum, whose link you'll find to the right of my wine blog. (OK, what wines do go with French tarragon?) This game is all about what book you are reading now -- great fun.


March 2013 update: My apologies for the inconvenience - I know word verification is a pain - but I've had to turn it on to help stop the ridiculous number of anonymous spam comments I've been getting every day. Thanks for your understanding.

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