DIRT NERD


“Learn to use me right”
A Q&A With Mexican Tarragon

When I was gifted my first farming plot by Jeanette Bell, Queen Bee of the New Orleans Urban Farming Scene, it came with a massive and decade-old bed of Mexican tarragon, an herb that I had previously never encountered or heard of. It grew on me (as it were) extremely quickly, not only because of its ability to thrive where “regular” tarragon cannot, but also, it’s just so vibrant and beautiful to behold, even when it’s not flowering. What follows is a brief but piquant dive into the thicket with this underrated powerhouse of the Southerly kitchen garden.


I know I have a tendency to focus a little too much on the names of plants, because honestly, it just intrigues me. I can’t help it, I know most of you are tired of these conversations. But you are a really fun case.
Well. It’s not all fun though, is it?

Sorry, I don’t mean to trivialize. The way you kind of get to be all these things though, in name anyway, that’s pretty neat, right?
Yeah, it’s certainly not all bad. Maybe confusing sometimes, but mostly not bad. Mexican tarragon because I taste like tarragon, Mexican marigold because I’m actually from the marigold family, and Mexican mint marigold. I have no idea why, that’s really not me, honestly. No mint flavor. But the one that gets me is Texas tarragon. Like, come on, Texas. We see right through you.

Oh yeah, wow. I didn’t realize that was a thing.
I wish it wasn’t but wishes are for fishes and me I’m a plant. It wasn’t that long ago Texas was Mexico so why with all the specificity? I grow all through the Southern states in the U.S. and all the way down Mexico into Central America. Mexican whatever is fine by me. This whole Texas thing is just a marketing ploy to sell me off to racist white people in the Southern U.S. and I’m not here for it. Not in the least.

I get that, you want us to take it out of the interview? Your whole truth is important, but I don’t need to be pushing any backwards cultural agendas here.
Nah, it’s fine. I want people to know. Maybe this way we can get the word out and change things. Maybe people just don’t know any better. But anybody who’s not willing to buy Mexican tarragon but is totally down for Texas tarragon, I don’t want a thing to do with that garden.

Heard. So. You taste like tarragon but you’re not tarragon.
That’s right. I taste like tarragon but even better. I even look like tarragon but better. When I say better, I mean stronger. I got the flavor, brother. Some of those French chefs can’t even handle my force, I got so much minty anise flavor that it just doesn’t quit. No surrender.

I thought you said you didn’t get the mint part of your name?
I mean, I can’t taste myself. It’s just what I hear, though. There’s all these anise herbs, like fennel and licorice and whatever, but tarragon is different because it’s got these different minty compounds in it. I’ve got those too.

Tarragon is a huge herb in traditional French cooking, so if you’re too potent for them, who are you good for?
Everyone, man! They just have to learn to use me right. In moderation, you know? Half of one of my leaves for every normal tarragon leaf. I have the power, but I know how to be subtle. I’ve got the goods.

And growing you, how does that work?
Bro, again. The strength, the power, the indomitable will that flows through me. I can take the heat. I can take droughts, I can take intense humidity, I’m here for it.

What about freezes?
Ha. Naw. Nope. That is not me. All that Texas-Mexico stuff uncomfortably defines me because of my capacity for heat, not so much me and the cold. Throw a frost at me and I’ll shrivel right up. But the babies I make, though. Those babies will keep on keeping on. Give me a chance to go to seed once and you’ll never have to worry about losing me and my kin again, no matter how cold it gets. So long as it doesn’t stay cold.

Anything else you’d like to share with us today?
I’m beautiful! Everybody loves talking about all the things I do, but nobody talks about who I am. I am vibrant and full of gorgeous green leaves, and my flowers are beloved by all manner of bee, butterfly, and bird.

So you’re saying you’re also a great pollinator plant?
That’s just another thing I do. Because of who I am! A majestic creature born to wow with my sexy smells and undeniable good looks.

Wow. 

Yeah, I know. You’re welcome.


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