Artemis, daughter of Zeus, was the Greek goddess of the moon and the hunt. It is said she gave tarragon to Chiron the centaur as one of several herbs or ‘artemisia.’
These herbs are said to have invoked tranquility and compassion, and perhaps a little magic. Tarragon contains a natural anesthetic so it’s not surprising the ancient Greeks used it to remedy toothaches. The word is from the Latin artemesia dracunculus meaning ‘little dragon.’ The French are credited to have brought the sensual side of tarragon to life, blending it in to many a gourmet dish. If you’ve enjoyed classic French cuisine with an excellent béarnaise, rigavote, or tartare sauce, you have savored the subtle beauty of tarragon.
The Subtle and Delicious Taste of Tarragon
Slightly bittersweet in flavor, tarragon is similar to anise, with a slightly more delicate flavor and aroma. The sweet licorice taste lightly touched with pepper adds a bit of zest to winter soups and provides an interesting flavor to salad dressings. Tarragon’s mild flavor enhances almost any food and is considered to be one of the four French ‘fine herbs.’
Fresh Tarragon: From Plate to Palate
A favorite for interesting soups and savory sauces, tarragon’s distinctive flavor will add a new dimension to your cooking and culinary enjoyment. Enter a love affair with tarragon by using it to flavor egg and cheese dishes. A simple basting of tarragon with butter, chives, and lemon brings an otherwise plain chicken, fish, or seafood dish a whole new life. A word to the wise however, heat tends to decrease tarragon’s unique flavor. For this reason, add it at the end of cooking a dish.
Potency is diminished when tarragon is dried so fresh is preferable. Tarragon can be grown year round, and in a windowsill or container garden during winter months. Make sure to provide good drainage and place tarragon in full sun, although it can tolerate filtered shade. For best flavor pick tarragon leaves in the morning. As Artemis once gifted Chiron, so may you enjoy the unique gift tarragon will bring to your next dish.
by Jennifer Tousey