30 April 2011

Tagetes lucida is Mexican mint Marigold or hot-weather tarragon

My Mexican marigold was added to the herb bed 4 years ago and each year I hope it returns. It's location is not ideal and our weather isn't either. (It's also called Mexican mint marigold, sweet mace, Spanish tarragon)

This winter I bought seeds and started them in the garden shed and they produced a significant number of seedlings. Good germination rate and great survival rate.

So now I have about 30 plants to scatter around the various beds which should delight the butterflies and skippers late this summer.

According to Alchemy Works "The Aztecs used it in ceremonies related to the dead, but Huichol Indians traditionally combined this plant with Nicotiana rustica in a smoking mixture used when taking peyote or other hallucinogens in order to induce clearer and less frightening visions. This magick herb needs lots of sun, enjoys humid heat, and can be grown in pots and brought inside in the winter. It has a nice spicy smell."

I like it because the pollinators are all over it and because its leaves are a perfect tarragon substitute. Its other uses listed above are outside my experience.

The Food Network has a recipe for Mexican mint marigold pesto. The ingredients are 1/4 cup Mexican mint marigold leaves, 2 cloves garlic, 1-T Parmesan cheese, 2-T pecans, 1/4 cup stock, 2-T olive oil, salt and pepper.

Texas Food and Wine Gourmet suggests their recipe for Mexican mint marigold tartar sauce for friend catfish. I has 3-cups mayonnaise, a can of tomatoes, a cup of V-8, a cup of Chardonnay, 1-Tablespoon Mexican mint marigold and several other ingredients. Here's that link.

The (wonderful) herb company, Mountain Valley Growers says this about it

Mexican marigold from Mt. Valley Growers
"Hardy to at least 5 degrees, and very easy to grow, it is often suggested as a garden substitute for French Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus sativa). Hence two of the common names often associated with Tagetes lucida---Winter Tarragon and Spanish Tarragon.


Recently we compared Spanish Tarragon with its counterpart French Tarragon. We discovered the 'dragon' (dracunculus translated) associated with French Tarragon was missing completely from our Marigold.

THE TARRAGON TASTE TRIALS FRENCH VS. SPANISH

The first part of our comparison was easy and basic. We ate fresh leaves of both plants from the garden. What we discovered by doing this held true for the remaining paces we put these two herbs through.

Finding #1: French Tarragon numbs the tip of the tongue while Spanish Tarragon stimulates the sweet taste buds. We added both herbs fresh to rice and boiled. Spanish Tarragon gave the rice a pleasant slightly anise flavor. French Tarragon was too strong for the subtly flavored rice and left us asking for salt.

Try 2 Tablespoons freshly chopped Spanish Tarragon with one-half cup brown rice.
Finding #2: Since the acquisition of the bread machine, all herbs tested for flavor usually find their way into bread. We used a Basic white French bread with no added sugar.

As a member of the herb blend, Fines Herbes, French Tarragon has traditionally been added at the end of cooking so that the flavor will not cook away. This just did not prove to be true. As with the rice, we learned that French Tarragon holds up well to prolonged cooking.

But, unless you like pepper in your bread leave out the French Tarragon. And, since the Spanish Tarragon lost almost all of its flavor, we discovered here are two herbs better suited to foods other than bread.

Finding #3: We already knew French Tarragon was great with our vinegar based potato salad. So this next challenge was for Spanish Tarragon.

Finding #4: The bland flavor of potatoes is enhanced greatly by the addition of Tarragon. French Tarragon gives this potato salad a spicy kick, and Spanish Tarragon contributed more of a fruity taste. Both are good, but different. Try both! The amount of Spanish Tarragon should be increased to 3 Tablespoons.


The last test was a little different. We made brownies!

Finding #5: Spanish Tarragon adds a special taste to chocolate that is subtle yet very right. Try 3 Tablespoons freshly chopped Spanish Tarragon to a recipe using 4 ounces of unsweetened chocolate.

French Tarragon was lost to the overpowering chocolate and yet the brownies had an odd off taste. Again, we learned that French Tarragon is easily overpowered.

While Spanish Tarragon may not be as spicy as French Tarragon, it can be used in most recipes calling for Tarragon with more than satisfactory results. It is definitely easier to grow and provides much more per plant to work with."

Pick up a pack of seeds or a plant at your local farmer's market. It's a lovely addition to the perennial herb bed.

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