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Tarragon :: Herb of the Month + Recipes + Giveaway

Posted Aug 12 2009 10:08pm

Basket of Tarragon

Artemisia dracunculus

This month we spotlight Tarragon as our Herb of the Month. Just the thought of this wonderful herb transports me back to our backyard in Budapest. Tarragon was one of the wonderful edibles that grew beautifully and abundantly in our yard, and I picked the fresh leaves often and enjoyed them mostly in tossed salads.

Now that I think of it I haven’t used this wonderful herb since the beginning of this year, and that strikes me as a little odd since I absolutely adore this herb. I used this wonderful herb in these two recipes:

Shredded Carrot Salad with Pomegranate and Tarragon

Chilled Red Tomato Tarragon Soup

Well, I can safely say my unintentional tarragon hiatus is officially over since I have a small basket of fresh French tarragon leaves waiting to be used.

French, Russian, and Spanish Tarragon

French and Russian tarragon are two varieties of tarragon used in recipes and surprisingly both originate from Eastern Europe, Siberia to be more specific. In comparison, the French variety has a much stronger, yet smooth and sweeter, licorice flavor over its counterpart. Russian tarragon has a milder and lighter flavor and also tends to have a slight bitter undertone.

Distinguishing the identity of the two leaves is easy, French tarragon has narrow, pointed, dark green leaves, and Russian tarragon has broader, tougher leaves.

Fresh vs. Dried

Fresh Tarragon has a stronger more pronounced flavor than dried. Some say it is best to use tarragon in moderation, in small quantities. I say use your discretion. It depends on what you pair it with and how you use it; only a little may be needed to flavor a certain dish. On that note, if you are looking for a subtle less intense flavoring, using a good quality dried tarragon would be a good option.

Storing It

Store springs of fresh tarragon in a shallow glass of water. It should last in the fridge for up to a week. For a longer term, fresh tarragon can be frozen in baggiest and thawed as needed.

Dried tarragon can keep its flavor and last up to a year when stored in air tight containers in a cool, dry area, out of direct sunlight.

Culinary Tarragon Around The World

French tarragon above the rest is highly sought after in the culinary world. It makes its appearance in soups, salads, salad dressings, marinades, herbed oils, sauces, vegetables, and desserts in world cuisine.

Tarragon blends well with herbs like chervil, chives, and parsley, pairs well with many vegetables including asparagus, artichokes, cauliflower, squash, tomatoes, and fruits including lemons, peaches, and pears.

These days tarragon is primarily cultivated and produced in France and it is an herb oh-so-evocative of French cuisine. The French call it “ esdragon ” or “ Herbe au Dragonand ” they use a great deal of it in many recipes. Tarragon and other aromatic herbs are combined to create the famous “ Herbs de Provence.

The Italians call it “ dragoncello “. It is a popular herb in Siena but it is not as commonly used elsewhere in Italy.

Notes, Facts, and Substitutions

Heat intensifies the flavour of both fresh and dried tarragon. If you plan to use it in a recipe that calls for heating through dehydrating, you might consider using a bit less tarragon than called for in the recipe.

Ran out of tarragon? Chervil, fennel seed or anise seed are good substitutes in a pinch, but keep in mind that the end result, the flavor of the recipe will not be exactly the same.

Another good substitute is Spanish or Mexican tarragon Tagetes lucida - it is part of the “abnormal marigold family of plants that offers a similar but less pungent licorice-like flavor with a sweeter note than French tarragon.

Plan on planting tarragon? Russian, as well as Spanish tarragon, are very easy to grow perennial herbs that can grow from seed as opposed to French tarragon which is more difficult to grow and must be cultivated from clippings. French and Russian tarragon are both part of the sunflower family. Spanish tarragon is part of the marigold family.

For those of you who are watching your salt intake, tarragon makes a great and flavorful salt substitute.

Chef’s Note: due to the volatile oils, tarragon tends to oxidize quickly if chopped excessively.

Health Benefits and Medicinal Uses

Tarragon is said to be an excellent source of calcium, iron, and manganese, a good source of potassium, magnesium, Vitamins A and C, and on the mineral front contains trace amounts of copper, phosphorous, and zinc.

Like most herbs, tarragon can be made into tea, but what I discovered about drinking the brew was a pleasant surprise. This herb contains antioxidants and healing properties that support the liver and the stomach. Tarragon tea can be used to help - stomach cramps, digestive problems, fatigue, stimulate the appetite, it has a calming effect and best of all it an excellent anti-bacterial agent and helps promote detoxification!. Anyone care for some tarragon tea?

Herb of the Month Giveaway

Each month we feature an herb, highlight its benefits, showcase it in a raw vegan recipe, and offer a giveaway of an assortment of products featuring the herb of the month courtesy of our wonderful sponsor Mountain Rose Herbs.

At the end of this month August, a name will be drawn from the comment section of this post, and Mountain Rose Herbs will send an awesome assortment of products featuring Tarragon to the winning participant.
Thank you in advance for your participation and good luck!

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