A delicate, sweet anise-like flavor that defines classic French cuisine
Aromatic tarragon adds a delicious flavor to many dishes, but it has many medicinal qualities as well. It’s named from French word “esdragon,” meaning little dragon for its dragon-like/serpentine root system. Tarragon has antioxidant properties. Historically, it was used in cooking to preserve meats and fish. It is one of the French “fines herbes” so its classic use is in remoulade, tartar, & béarnaise sauces, French dressing & veal Marengo.
Tarragon with its anise-like character enhances fish and all kinds of meats, potatoes, beets, broccoli, and many other vegetables. It is superb in flavored vinegars, herbed mayonnaise & butters, cream sauces and with eggs, cheeses and yogurt. Tarragon should only be added to cooked dishes at the very end as it will develop a bitter taste. Tarragon is best when used fresh.
Tarragon leaves are rich in iodine, mineral salts and vitamins A & C. It is high in potassium and beta carotene which are beneficial for the eyes. An infusion of tarragon is an appetite stimulant and a tonic for the digestive system. It has been effective in treating anorexia. It is also known to relieve flatulence and colic and is a local anesthetic to ease toothaches. Indeed, if you chew on a leaf, you may notice a slight numb feeling on your tongue.
Most gardeners acquire tarragon as seedlings, divisions, or cuttings. Take cuttings of tarragon in autumn or spring and plant them 2 feet apart. Plants should be mulched in winter to protect them from frost. They will die back in winter and return again come spring. Tarragon needs well-drained loamy soil. The best way to store it is by freezing or preserving in white vinegar. Dried tarragon will turn slightly brown. Tarragon is considered a good companion plant for other vegetables to enhance their growth. So give some tarragon a try in your garden or plant it in a pot to bring inside on a sunny windowsill in the wintertime.
Ruth Madocks handcrafts local, organic products. She owns the Branch Mill Organic Farm & Retreat Center