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Tarragon: delicate aroma for a distinctive taste

Tarragon is particularly popular in French cuisine. The delicate aromatic plant gives sauce béarnaise and a French vinaigrette their distinctive flavour. It’s also a key ingredient in the “fine herbes” herb mixture.

Cook along if you like

You can make a spicy tarragon vinegar by steeping freshly cut tarragon leaves in dilute vinegar for about two months. Then remove the tarragon and bottle the vinegar to flavour special salads. If you’re adding tarragon to fish, chicken and vegetable dishes, you can cook it along with the dish. You’ll lose the smell, but not the taste, through cooking. Be cautious with the amount you use; too much and it quickly becomes dominant. Tarragon is also known as a medicinal plant. It is thought to stimulate appetite, promote digestion and reduce inflammation.

Kinds of tarragon

Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) belongs to the daisy family. The perennial herb has long, narrow leaves, it grows into a small bush 40 to 120 centimetres high depending on the variety. The plant probably originated in Siberia and spread from there to southern Asia and southern Europe. It was only in the 17th century that it was discovered by French court cooks and integrated into fine cuisine. There are two main varieties: Russian tarragon is the original form and tastes somewhat bitter and not as intense as French tarragon. This is due to the fact that the main aromatic component, estragole, and various flavonoids are missing. French tarragon is the best choice to cook with. It has a delicate spicy and slightly sweetish aroma, with hints of aniseed and cinnamon.

Grow your own tarragon

Tarragon isn’t difficult to grow in your own garden. Russian tarragon in particular is very robust and will grow almost anywhere. French tarragon makes higher demands. It needs a lot of sun, a fair amount of moisture, a wind-protected site and plenty of space. The young and delicate leaves are harvested just before the plant flowers, because that’s when they taste especially aromatic. If you’re lucky you’ll find tarragon growing fresh in a pot, or as a fresh bunched herb. Frozen tarragon is very good and you can even buy dried tarragon.

 

Source: Heike Kreutz, www.bzfe.de