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Artemisia dracunculus

Ah sweet, sweet tarragon

This fine herb has a lot in common with anise. Both are very aromatic and have strong and similar flavors. Tarragon is used in abundance in fine French cooking and is used in sauces as well. Béarnaise, just wouldn’t be the same without Tarragon. This is another herb that wants to be used with prudence as the Tarragon flavor is so bold it wants to take over other flavors and herbs.

The name Tarragon is a corruption of the French Esdragon, derived from the Latin Dracunculus (a little dragon), which also serves as part of its scientific name, Artemisia dracunculus. It is sometimes called little Dragon Mugwort and in French is called Herbe au Dragon. The name is practically the same in most countries.

Tarragon is believed to have been brought to Europe from Mongolia and Siberia by invading Mongols in the 13th century. Although it was native to these remote Chinese and Russian areas, perhaps its remote birthplace contributes to its lack of popularity before this time. By the 15th century, it was popular enough in England to make its way to American shores with the colonists.

Tarragon is one of the four fines herbes of French cooking, and is particularly suitable for chicken, fish and egg dishes. The ingredients of what are known as French Fines (pronounced feen) Herbes are parsley, chives, Tarragon and chervil. Sometimes marjoram may be added.

When infused with distilled white vinegar or white wine vinegar, Tarragon vinegar is one of the finest herbed vinegars for cooking and salads. Should you run out of Tarragon, you may use anise or fennel leaves as a substitute.