Tarragon is a perennial herb native to Siberia, with a strong anise-like flavor (their oils are chemically identical). Its name is derived from a Latin word meaning “little dragon,” thanks to its twisting roots, and it was traditionally believed to cure dragon bites as well as insomnia and bad breath.

Tarragon plant in ground.

SEASONAL in Southern California

History

Tarragon is a fairly “young” herb, having only been cultivated for around 600 years. It is believed that invading Mongols brought tarragon to Italy sometime in the 10th century. In the 14th century, St. Catherine carried tarragon with her on a pilgrimage to France, where it is principally used today.

Nutrition

Tarragon is a good source of vitamins A, B6, and C, as well as folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and manganese. Tarragon has been traditionally used to treat poor digestion, intestinal problems, rheumatism, gout, arthritis, and toothache.

Storage

Wrap tarragon sprigs in a damp paper towel, seal in a plastic bag or jar and keep in the refrigerator crisper for up to 3 weeks.

Preparation

Tarragon is a key herb in French cooking and is included with chervil, chives, and parsley under the term fines herbs.It is the main flavoring in béarnaise sauce, features in a number of Eastern European recipes, and is a principal herb in Persian-style pickles. Tarragon goes well with poultry, fish, and egg dishes, and is complemented by acidic flavors in citrus and vinegar, making it a popular addition to salad dressings and marinades.

Pro Tips

If not using a whole sprig of tarragon, separate leaves from the stem and chop finely to use. 1 tablespoon of fresh tarragon substitutes for 1 teaspoon dried.

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