Mexican Mint Marigold

The Mexican Mint Marigold, aka Mexican tarragon, is an ancient herb. It is an easy-growing plant with many uses, including being used in tea, in chocolate, or as a savory seasoning.


| Summer 2014



Marigold blossoms

Mexican mint marigold is an ancient herb, which as held a variety of uses, from tea to chocolate.

Photo by Jim Long

This very ancient herb goes by a variety of common, but somewhat confusing names. "Mexican mint marigold" is the most common, but you’ll also find it listed as Texas tarragon, Mexican’ tarragon, cloud plant, coronilla, winter tarragon, sweet mace, sweet marigold and Spanish tarragon. It isn’t, however, related to French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus ‘Sativa’) at all.

Don’t confuse French tarragon, which is used for cooking, with false or Russian tarragon, A. dracunculoides, because it is somewhat invasive, grows well in hotter climates, and is grown from seed.

The Latin name, Tagetes lucida, refers to its other Tagetes relatives, the marigolds. Mint marigold is a perennial, native to Central and South America and has been used as a seasoning herb, tea plant and medicinal in native cultures for more than a thousand years.

The flavor is anise-like, a bit sweeter than ‘French’ tarragon, but used in some of the same ways as that herb. Dried leaves are used in soups, sauces and main dishes. Unlike French tarragon, it doesn’t retain its best flavor when dried, ‘mint’ marigold dries quite well. However, its best flavor is from the fresh leaves, chopped and used in dishes such as chicken salad, tossed green salads and even fresh pesto sauces over tacos.

Medicinal uses include treatment for upset stomach, for stimulating the appetite, as a diuretic and stimulating beverage. There are reports from various parts of Mexico and the southern United States of message-carrying long-distance runners using especially strong mint marigold tea to give them strength and stamina; the robust tea acting similar to the caffeine in strong coffee. Traditionally, the leaves were an important flavoring for chocolatl, the foamy, stimulating cocoa drink of the ancient Aztecs.

Mexican mint marigold does well in regions where French tarragon struggles. For example, French tarragon doesn’t thrive in the hotter southern states. Even in the Missouri and Arkansas Ozarks, ‘French’ tarragon suffers with the heat, but Mexican mint marigold thrives in hot climates.





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