Trragon Herb

Tarragon is anherb that is popular in French cooking. The crushed leaves have an aroma similiar to anise.

Scientific name: Artemisia Dracunculus, Artemisia Dracunculoides

Other names: Estragon

Tarragon belongs to the Compositae or composite family. Its natural habitat is eastern Europe and northern Asia. Tarragon was brought into America in the 19th century. It grows to about 2 feet and looks like a shrub with tiny greenish white flowers. The undivided leaves are long and narrow and the stems and branches are woody. When the leaves are crushed, they give off an anise like scent and they taste slightly bitter sweet.

Tarragon is derived from new Latin tarchon and perhaps from the Greek word, drakon (dragon). Indeed sometimes the French refer to this herb as herbe au dragon and to them this is the king of all herbs. There are two varieties that are cultivated, Russian and French. The ones that are sold commercially as dried leaves come from the French variety and are more pungent. Tarragon flowers are rarely fertile so the plant is propagated by use of root cuttings. The leaves are picked before the plant flowers and they contain essential oil but this oil is lost through drying. The leaves also contain euginol, an anesthetic chemical.

In the kitchen, tarragon is used to flavor vinegar, oil and butter. It is used in cooking meat, fish, soups, stews and sauces. The French use tarragon to make their famous Bearnaise sauce and tartare sauce is nothing without this herb.

Medicinal uses: The English started using tarragon in the 16th century and ancient Greeks used the roots to cure toothaches. Persians eat it to induce appetites. Crushed leaves can be rubbed on the skin to soothe insect bites and stings. It is supposed to work as a natural insect repellant. Tarragon is also used as a diuretic.

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