Amongst many varieties of tarragon, Mexican tarragon has the strongest and sweetest flavor and its spicy aroma enhances the taste of many dishes. The herb is very popular in Mexico and US.
Short History and Etymology
This plant is known under a lot of names: Mexican Marigold, Spanish Tarragon, Mexican Mint Marigold, Texas Tarragon, sweetscented marigold.
Mexican tarragon is used since the time of the Aztecs, both for religious and medical reasons. They considered the plant sacred and thought it belonged to Tlaloc, the god of rain.
It is still used nowadays by the Huichol Indians from Oaxaca, Mexico. It is said that combined with other herbs helps the shamans to get their visions. They say the plant can be used in a variety of ways to induce lucid dreams by burning the incense, smoking it or infused in water as a tea.
For a long time, Mexican Marigold was a symbol of death and it was used to pay homage to the ones who are no longer on Earth. During the Mexican Festival “Day of Dead” (Dia de los Muertos), people burn dried leaves from this plant and use the flowers for decorations.
Not only Mexican use this herb in religious practice, but also Hindu in India and Nepal.
The scientific name is Tagetes Lucida. The botanical name “tagetes” is linked to Romanian deity “Tages” (which originally was an Etruscan god of prophecy, and was later adopted by the Romans as one of the descendants of Zeus ). The species name “Lucidus” means “bright” and refers to the yellow flowers.
Mexican tarragon is a herb that grows up to 19-27 inch tall. The leaves are 2.5-3.5 inch long and 1 inch wide and have a bright green color. If crushed they have a bland flavor, similar to that of tarragon with a small trace of anise. In late summer small yellow flowers grow, gathered in clusters.
The taste of Mexican tarragon is similar to the regular French tarragon and very intense.
When harvested, it should be rinsed and allowed to dry naturally. Its leaves can be used fresh or dried.
You may keep it fresh in the refrigerator for several days. If you want to dry it, you will benefit of its aroma for several months if kept safe from air, light and moisture.
It may be used for medical purposes in the form of decoctions or infusions for pain relief, hangover, fever, as calming the nervous system or as a cure for people with low blood pressure.
In the garden Mexican tarragon is an enemy to weeds because its roots release a substance (thiophene), which prevents their spread. It is a plant that attracts beneficial insects, and removes the harmful ones.
The best thing you can do is to use tarragon in moderation. Its flavor is very intense and you risk spoiling the taste and aroma of the dishes. Also do not chop it into very small pieces because it oxidizes really fast and gets a bad taste.
The leaves and flowers may be well matched with veggies like carrots, beets, potatoes, zucchini, tomatoes; fish and seafood or poultry; but also with fruits like avocado, melon, summer fruits, plums, apricots or peaches.
You may pair tarragon with eggs, cheese or mushrooms.
Mexican tarragon may be used for flavoring wine, spirits and refreshments, jellies and compotes.
It is also the most important ingredient of the béarnaise sauce.
This exquisite herb is definitely worth trying as it will bring the “wow” note to your cooking.