Tarragon has a strong flavour and aroma, similar to anise or mild liquorice. It can grow up to 2 feet (60 cm) tall with long, narrow leaves. It will blossom in August (though it should be harvested before then.) In its native countries and in southern Europe, it is a perennial, but it won't survive the winter in northern climates. It is generally grown by propagation of roots or through cuttings. If you are growing it in a northern climate, you will need to replant some each spring.
There are two types of Tarragon, French (which has dark green leaves), and Russian, whose leaves are a bit rougher and a brighter green. The French Tarragon is the one gourmets prefer -- some say the Russian has no taste and is useless in the kitchen.
Tarragon is purchased either fresh or dried, whole or ground, but much of the anise-y flavour (which comes from a volatile oil in the leaves) is lost in the drying process. Still, enough survives that Tarragon is used in Fines Herbes mixtures, which are available in France and elsewhere, dried or fresh.
Tarragon is used in making the French sauce called "Béarnaise".
Tarragon is good with asparagus, beef, eggs, fish, lamb, mushrooms, poultry, salads, salad dressings, seafood (such as crab and shrimp) and veal.
Tarragon appears to be native to Western Asia and Southern Russia. It was being used by the Greeks in 500 BC. The Romans thought that the herb might help prevent fatigue, which probably led to the Medieval practice of placing Tarragon in shoes before starting a long walking journey. It didn't start to be used in European cooking, however, until towards the end of the Middle Ages. The Tudors were given Tarragon for their royal gardens as a gift from a monarch on the continent in the late 1500s. Colonists brought it to North America.
Literature & Lore
HerbsAngelica; Angostura Bark; Bay Leaf; Borage; Chamomile; Chervil; Chives; Comfrey; Curry Leaves; Dill; Dried Herbs; Epazote; Filé; Folium Indicum; Garlic Greens; Green Garlic; Gruit; Herbes Salées; Herbs; Hops; Jacob's Ladder; Lady's Bedstraw; Lavender; Loroco; Lovage; Marjoram; Mexican Tarragon; Mint; Mugwort Powder; Oregano; Pennywort; Potherbs; Rolling Mincer; Rosemary; Rue; Sachet Bags; Sage; Salad Burnet; Sarsaparilla; Sassafrass; Savoury; Screw Pine Leaves; Shiso Leaves; Silphium; Sorrel; Stevia; Sweet Cicely; Tarragon; Thyme; Trefoil; Valerian; Wild Garlic; Winter Purslane; Wormwood; Yarrow; Yomogi
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