Botanical Name: Artemisia dracunculus L.

Common Name: Tarragon

Family: Compositae

Parts Used: Leaves and stems

Native Region:
European continent


Geographic Distribution:
Arrived in England in 1500’s and transported to the Dutch settlements in the New World. Currently found in most of Northern Hemisphere including Europe, Asia, India, western North America and parts of northern Mexico. Written records of Tarragon cultivation date back to 500 B.C. [1]

Botanical Description: Tarragon is a perennial herb cultivated for the use of its aromatic leaves in seasoning, salads, etc., and in the preparation of Tarragon vinegar. It grows to a height of about 2 feet and has long, narrow leaves, which are undivided, alternate, either oblong or lance-shaped. They grow ¾ – 3 ½ inches long. It blossoms in August, the small flowers, in round heads, being yellow mingled with black, and rarely fully open. The roots are long and fibrous, spreading by runners. The fresh leaves have an anise like odor when crushed. [2] Charlemagne, king of the Franks and Holy Roman Empire, liked it so much that he ordered it planted on all his estates. 

Cultivation: Tarragon rarely produces fertile flowers so it is more readily cultivated by division of roots in early spring, or by cuttings. A few young plants should be raids annually to keep up a supply. It loves warmth and sunshine and succeeds best in warm, rather dry situations. Protect the rots during winter to reduce damage due to freezing.[2]

Harvesting Guidelines: Leaves can be picked from mid summer until the end of September. The foliage can be cut and dried in early autumn for use in a dry state later. Beds should be entirely cut down and top dressed to protect from frost. If you need green leaves during winter, dig up a few roots and move them inside. Dry in a well ventilated room and pack away as soon as dry to avoid reabsorption of moisture.

Constituents: Fresh leaves possess an essential volatile oil, which if used extensively, has been shown in animal experiments to carcinogenic. The main essential oils in tarragon are estragole (methyl chavicol), cineol, ocimene and phellandrene. [6] It is a rich source of the B-complex vitamins, and contains a large amount of niacin and thiamin, vitamins A and C. [3] And an excellent source of calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, copper potassium and zinc. [6]

Culinary Uses: Leaves should be washed under running water to remove dirt, other impurities, or pesticides. Add it in small amounts to dishes at the last minute to retain the most flavor and taste. It can be used as an ingredient in green salads. It pairs well with eggs and doesn’t mix well with other flavors besides lemon. [4] The dried leaves can be used to marinate meat, poultry, fish and lamb dishes; also to flavor sauces and soups. [3]

Tarragon Vinegar – Pick just before flowering on a dry day. Remove the leaves from the stalks, and allow them to dry a little. Then place in a wide mouthed jar, cover with best quality white vinegar, and allow to stand some hours. Strain and cork the bottles. [2]

Recipes:

Classic Bernaise Sauce [7]

Seared Chicken Breasts with Quick Pan Sauce [7]

Creamy Tarragon Salad Dressing [7]

Herbs de Provence [8]

Tarragon and Spice Deviled Eggs [8]

Medicinal Uses:

  • Improved Digestion – the oils in Tarragon trigger the body’s natural digestive juices, sparking the appetite, and assisting in the digestive process with the production of gastric juices and stimulating peristaltic motion in the intestine. [4]
  • Better Sleep – some herbalists recommend tarragon tea before bed to calm the nervous system and encourage a restful sleep. Use 1 teaspoon of fresh leaves to one cup of hot water. [4]
  • Spring Blood Thinner – Tarragon’s aroma relaxes and dilates blood vessels, improving circulation. It also reduces platelet adhesion and the clogging of blood vessels. [5]
  • Encourages Menstruation – Herbalists recommend using tarragon to encourage menstruation and help maintain overall health of the female reproductive tract. There is no scientific research to back up this claim, so to be on the safe side, don’t overdo it or take it as a supplement if you’re pregnant or nursing. [4]
  • Toothache Remedy –  Traditional herbal medicine has utilized fresh tarragon leaves as a hoe remedy for toothache relief throughout history. The high levels of eugenol, a naturally occurring anesthetic chemical,  provide this pain-relieving effect. [4]
  • Fights Bacteria – The essential oil of tarragon has proven antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. [4]

Disclaimer – Sun Ovens International, Inc. provides this information for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. For personal medical advice, please consult your physician.

One last note, there are many other plants with a tarragon name: Russian, Texas, Mexican. These plants can be used as a tarragon substitute but they are not the same as French Tarragon.

References

  1. https://ayurvedamedicare.com/herbs/tarragon/

2.  https://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/t/tarrag07.html

3.   https://brightwhiz.com/tarragon/

4.   https://draxe.com/tarragon/

5.   https://www.joyfulbelly.com/Ayurveda/ingredient/Tarragon/37

6.   https://www.nutrition-and-you.com/tarragon-herb.html

7.   https://www.thespruceeats.com/tarragon-recipes-and-cooking-tips-1807991 

8.   https://www.allrecipes.com/recipes/1075/ingredients/herbs-and-spices/herbs/tarragon/

Billie Nicholson, Editor
April 2019

    

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