Semihardy herbaceous perennial
Aromatic, Cosmetic. Culinary, Medicinal, Ornamental
1-1/2 to 2 feet high, 1 to 1-1/2 feet wide
Moist acid to alkaline soil
|Mexican Mint Marigold,Tagetes Lucida(Also called Winter Tarragon, Texas Tarragon, False Tarragon) Tagetes, the marigold genus, originated in the cool mountains of Mexico. Natives began cultivating many of the marigolds over five thousand years ago, Mexican Mint Marigold was valued for its medicinal properties. It was used to kill intestinal parasites, sooth upset stomachs, relieve diarrhea and ease menstrual cramps, and as a general tonic.
Mexican Mint Marigold has many common names in Mexico and Central American, including hierba de anis, hierba de San Juan, flor de Santa Maria, and pericon. The flavor is sweet, somewhat like anise.
Many slender stems rise unbranched from the base of this semihardy perennial. Narrow leaves are deep glossy green above, pale green below. Underneath are tiny glands filled with oil that smells like anise. Small, daisy like yellow-orange flowers appear in the Fall and can be showy in the garden.
Planting & Care.
Sow seeds after danger of frost has passed. Cover seed lightly with soil and keep evenly moist. Dividing plants is the the easiest method; do this in the Spring or Fall. Arch a stem to the ground, cover the center with soil, and the stem will often root at the nodes.
Even in the mildest climates these plants are winter dormant. As plants set seed, let them begin to dry out. If the weather remains too moist when plants are dormant they will rot. Allow three or four months of dormancy before watering again. Locate plants in full sun to moderate afternoon shade; without enough sun they may not flower. Tolerates any soil, including clay or loam, alkaline or acidic, even limestone soils.
Mexican Mint Marigold does well in containers as long as the soil does not dry out. In northern climates allow plants to go dormant and store them in a cool area for the winter. Move them to a sunny spot and begin watering in late winter to bring them out of dormancy.
Harvesting and Use.
Dried leaves are mildly aromatic in potpourri. A warm decoction works well to tone skin, help cleanse pores and treat acne.
When cooking, the sweetish anise-like flavor of leaves and stems can be substituted for tarragon. Fresh leaves and flowers complement chicken, fish veal and mutton. Stuffed peppers, squash, tomatoes and tradition turkey stuffing are enhanced by the subtle flavor. Do not over cook; add near the end of preparation.
Sprinkle fresh leaves in green and fruit salads. Wonderful in herb vinegars; the flavor is strongest with white wine vinegar as a base. When harvesting leaves use sharp shears to cut rather than crush the stems. This helps prevent the flavorful oils from escaping. Chop as you add to dishes when cooking.
The golden orange flowers make a spicy tea and can be blended with black tea for flavor.