Tagetes lucida, or Mexican Mint Marigold as it is called in our region, is one of the favorites of this area and is closely associated with Madalene Hill. This now-familiar herb was brought to Madalene in the early l960’s by a woman from Mexico who said she used it to make a tea for when “you are worried”. In researching the herb, Madalene found how similar it was to tarragon. As she reported, We began using mint marigold for our cooking school. Visiting French chefs loved this herb from Mexico that tasted like tarragon. I think we probably were the first to introduce it as a culinary herb. Its long history as a medicinal tea herb was well known.”
A reliable perennial, Mexican Mint Marigold is easy to grow and a wonderful addition to the landscape in the fall of the year, the lovely green sub-shrub will be covered with bright yellow marigold-shaped blooms. The upright stems reach heights of 2 to 3 feet, and although it frequently goes dormant briefly in the winter, it re-grows when our weather warms up, needing only a trim to regain its graceful shape. If necessary, it can be cut right down to the ground, regrowth will emerge from its roots.
Although the leaves are used for teas and potpourris, its greatest value is as a culinary substitute for French Tarragon, which is almost impossible to keep going in our climate. It is unsurpassed for salads, poultry, and fish dishes, and remember to add it late in the cooking process as its volatile flavor oils tend to disperse with high heat.