What is the difference between French and Russian tarragon?
French tarragon vs Russian tarragon
French and Russian tarragon look alike, the Russian type seems to have taller more upright growth and its leaves are narrower and are a bit spikier.
French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) is sweeter and lighter. It has a tinge of citrus / licorice flavoring, which works well in a wide range of recipes. The French variation is preferred by most for culinary use, since it exhibits a better flavor.
Russian tarragon (Artemisia dracunculoides), also known as false tarragon, is bitter. Lots of gardeners say that it has virtually no scent or taste so considered useless as a culinary herb, others say that it has a bit stronger melon and grassier tone.
The test is crushing a leaf between your fingers to release the aroma of this culinary herb.
Being not as strongly aromatic and flavorsome as its French cousin, Russian tarragon produces many more leaves from early spring onwards that are mild and good in salads and cooked food. Remember that Russian tarragon loses what flavor it has as it ages. The young stems in early spring can be cooked as an asparagus substitute.
The French tarragon is propagated only by root division, whereas the Russian one can be grown from seeds.
A better substitute for French tarragon is Spanish tarragon (Tagetes lucida), also known as Mexican mint marigold, Mexican tarragon, Texas tarragon, or winter tarragon. It is much more reminiscent of French tarragon, with a hint of anise.