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How to Harvest Tarragon: Step-by-Step Guide

Discover the secrets to harvesting tarragon like a pro, ensuring that you enjoy the most flavorful and aromatic leaves while encouraging healthy growth throughout the season.

A bunch of freshly harvested tarragon.

If you’re growing tarragon in your herb garden, you’ll want to know the best ways to harvest it. Proper harvesting techniques will give you the most aromatic and flavorful leaves while keeping your tarragon plant healthy and productive.

In this article, I’ll walk you through when and how to harvest your tarragon, sharing the methods that have worked well for me over the years.

When to Harvest Tarragon

Generally, you should wait until the plant has established itself and has reached a height of at least 6 inches/ 15 cm before harvesting. This usually takes about 60 to 75 days after planting, depending on the growing conditions.

Tarragon is a perennial herb, meaning it will come back year after year. In the first year, it’s best to harvest sparingly to allow the plant to develop a strong root system. In subsequent years, you can harvest more frequently.

The optimal time to harvest tarragon is during the summer months, typically from June to September, when the plant is actively growing, and the leaves are at their most flavorful. Harvesting regularly during this period will encourage bushier growth and prevent the plant from flowering, which can cause the leaves to turn bitter.

It’s best to harvest tarragon leaves before the plant begins to flower. If you notice flower buds forming, pinch them off to prolong the harvest season and maintain the quality of the leaves.

Tools for Harvesting

  • Sharp scissors or pruning shears: This helps in making clean cuts without damaging the plant.
  • A basket or container: Ideal for collecting the leaves.
  • Garden gloves (optional): Protect your hands from any potential irritation.

Make sure your tools are clean and sterile. This prevents any diseases from spreading to the plant.

Harvesting Tarragon

Tarragon can be harvested regularly throughout the growing season. Frequent harvesting promotes bushier growth and prevents the plant from becoming woody.

Choose healthy, unblemished leaves for harvesting. The young leaves have the most potent flavor. Avoid leaves that appear yellowed, brown, or damaged by pests or disease.

Use a sharp pair of scissors or pruners to snip off young, tender leaves just above a node (leaf joint). This encourages new growth and helps maintain a bushy shape.

Harvest only what you need, leaving at least 2/3 of the plant intact to ensure continued growth. If you need a larger quantity, harvest from multiple stems rather than stripping a single stem bare.

You can also harvest entire branches if you need a larger quantity of tarragon. Focus on taking branches that are 4 to 6 inches long, cut the branches just above a node to stimulate new growth.

Avoid removing too many branches at once, as this can weaken the plant.

Storing Harvested Tarragon

Freshly harvested tarragon can be stored for both short-term use and longer preservation to ensure its flavor lasts. Using proper methods ensures your tarragon stays fresh and aromatic.

Short-Term Storage Methods

Keeping tarragon fresh for a week or two is quite simple. There are two basic methods:

  1. Stand in water: Place the tarragon stems in a glass of water, cover with a plastic bag, and refrigerate. Change the water every few days.
  2. Paper towels: Wrap tarragon in a damp paper towel and place it in a plastic bag or sealed container. Store this in the crisper drawer of your fridge. Change the paper towel every few days to keep it fresh.

Try to use fresh tarragon within a week for the best flavor.

Long-Term Preservation Techniques

To keep tarragon for months, freezing or drying are the best options.

  • Freezing: Remove leaves from stems. Spread leaves on a baking sheet and freeze. Once frozen, store in airtight containers or freezer bags.
  • Drying: Bundle stems together and hang them in a cool, dry place for a couple of weeks. Once dry, crush the leaves and store in airtight containers away from light.