The Arbor Gate’s monthly ‘Herb Picks’ for 2014 honor the memory of Madalene Hill and celebrate her pioneering work in bringing herbs to all the gardeners of the Gulf South (and beyond). Each month’s herb is closely associated with Madalene.
February 2014 marks the fifth anniversary of the dedication of the Madalene Hill Herb Garden at The Arbor Gate.
She was our teacher, mentor, and friend.
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.” It is widely recognized as a Madalene Hill introduction. In researching the herb, Madalene found how similar it is to tarragon. “We began using mint marigold for 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.”
Mexican Mint Marigold is a handsome, robust perennial plant that makes a terrific addition to the garden whether used in the kitchen or not. Drought tolerant, its upright stems attain 2 to 3 feet in height during spring and summer, and its bright yellow marigold-like blooms add a terrific burst of color to the fall and early winter landscape.
Its leaves are used for tea and potpourri, and they make a terrific substitute for tarragon, which is so temperamental that it seldom grows successfully in Gulf Coast gardens. The leaves are also added to green salads, to poultry and fish dishes – in fact, wherever tarragon is called for.
When cold weather turns its foliage brown, cut the plant right back to the ground. You’ll be rewarded by its speedy return with the first warm weather.