A French Tarragon Substitute
Mexican mint marigold, Tagetes lucida is an herb that can be used as a French tarragon substitute. People in Florida call it Mexican tarragon. Texans know it as winter or Texas tarragon.
“Sweet Marigold, Licorice 1 Pkt. (50 seeds)”
The narrow green leaves of Mexican marigold resemble those of the French true tarragon plant, Artemisia dracunculus and smell of licorice when bruised. It also shares the same upright growth habit and grows to 2 feet.
This is where the physical resemblance ends.
French tarragon rarely blooms. Mexican tarragon lights up the herb garden each fall with its clusters of bright gold, inch wide flowers.
It looks especially striking with the dark red leaves of purple fountain grass rising up behind it.
Why use Tagetes lucida as a substitute for tarragon?
Because French tarragon is not fond of heat or humidity and will not grow in the southern U.S.
Mexican tarragon loves heat. It also tastes very much like French true tarragon only it is a bit sweeter. Because of this difference, gourmet cooks prefer it for rice or desert dishes.
The flowers can also be used to color rice dishes. If you can bear to remove them from the plant.
Texas tarragon is a tender, unreliable perennial which is treated as an annual even in zone 9. You can keep it over the winter by rooting stems or saving the seed that forms after the flowers fade.
Stems of mature Mexican marigold plants will sometimes fall over and root where they touch the soil.