Herbs and spices of Provence
Latin: Artemisia dracunculus
Synonyms: dragonne, serpentine
Tarragon originated in Russian Asia and Mongolia and was introduced to Europe in the Middle Ages, by the Mongol invasions and the crusaders. The Arabs had named the herb tharkhoun after the Tartar planes. The name evolved to tarcon or targon and dragon, giving tarragon in English and estragon in French. The term dragon, and the subsequent petit serpent or serpentine comes from the shape of the roots.
Tarragon likes rich, light and dry soil, with a lot of sun but protected from wind and frost.
The leaves can be frozen or conserved in oil or vinegar. They can be dried (at 30°C; 86°F), but lose a lot of their aroma. Fresh leaves will keep for a few days in a sealed jar in the fridge.
The leaves have a strong taste and aroma, good for sauces and meats, but must be used with discretion. Tarragon is one of the French "fines herbes", along with chervil, chives, parsley (cerfeuil, ciboulette, persil).
Use the leaves to flavor vinegar (great for salads), bernaise sauce and tartar sauce. Good with avocado, omelettes, soup, and mixed with a butter sauce for fish, chicken, veal, grilled meat and vegetables, and a basting sauce for roasted chicken.
Mix with yogart or "fromage blanc" to serve with fresh vegetables.
Use as a herbal tea (20-30 grams per liter) to stimulate the appetite; if that works too well, the tarragon herbal tea is also good to help digestion. Chew a leaf to stop hiccups.