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Synonyms: tarragon leaf (herb), dragon sagewort

botanical name: Artemisia dracunculus



Tarragon is probably native to Central Asia, more precisely in the vicinity of the Caspian Sea. In addition it is at home in western North America. It arrived in Europe in the 13th century and is now common in almost all temperate-zone regions.


Among the main growing areas are Egypt, the USA, Argentina, India and some European countries, including Germany.



Fresh leaves and the tips of shoots can be harvested from older plants from June until September; in the first year of cultivation the harvest should not begin before the end of August. For domestic use leaves and shoots can be harvested continually. Fresh tarragon is also sold in many supermarkets as small potted plants.


Dried leaves are sold throughout the year.


Appearance, taste, characteristics

Tarragon is an herbaceous perennial belonging botanically to the Compositae and is related to mugwort. It grows bushy and branched, to a height of 60-120 cm, and has long, thin, light-green leaves that can be up to 10 cm long.


Tarragon blossoms from July to October, whereby the inconspicuous small, round blossoms only rarely open completely in our latitudes. The blossoms grow in loose panicles and are white or green-yellow to bright red.


Depending on the variety, the flavour of tarragon is piquant, sweetish and mildly to distinctly bitter. It is slightly peppery and reminiscent of anise or fennel.


When it is dried, tarragon loses much of its aroma and the taste is no longer as intensive as when it is fresh.


Tarragon has two different growth forms:

* The probably more original, bitter-tasting form is the 'Russian' or 'Siberian' tarragon. It is frost-resistant, grows rapidly and is relatively undemanding.

* In contrast, 'French' (or 'aromatic', 'German', or 'true') tarragon is sensitive to frost, requires nutrient-rich soil to grow and is not as fruitful as the frost-resistant form. However, it is preferred to the latter because of its more intensive, anise-like aroma.



'Russian' tarragon contains 0.1%-2.1% essential oil, composed mainly of sabinene, methyl eugenol and elemicine.


With 0.25%-3.1%, the 'French' variety has a higher content of flavouring essential oils, chief among them estragole, which is responsible for tarragon's interesting anise-like character.


Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions

At the beginning of florescence the leaves and shoot tips have the most aroma, because the content of oil is greatest at this time. As with all culinary herbs, fresh tarragon should be used as quickly as possible. It is best to store it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, where it will keep for 4-5 days. You can also put the fresh herb in vinegar or oil, and it is suitable for freezing.


Dried tarragon leaves have much less aroma than fresh. They should be kept as cool, dry and protected from light as possible in an airtight container.


Presumed effect on health

Already in ancient times tarragon was used as a medicinal plant; it stimulates the production of gastric juices and is held to promote appetite and further digestion. In folk medicine it is recommended for relieving cramps and as a diuretic. It is even administered as an antihelminthic (remedy for worms).


Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation

The fresh young leaves and shoots of tarragon are used, or the dried leaves, which are sold crushed or ground.


It is chiefly the French tarragon that is recommended for seasoning, as it has more aroma. As its name implies, the herb is used particularly in French cuisine to prepare fish, poultry and egg dishes. It is indispensible in sauces such as béarnaise, hollandaise, mustard and tartar.

Tarragon butter is also delicious and can be frozen. Tarragon is used to pickle cucumbers and to make herb vinegar and mustard.


The essential oil is used industrially in the production of liqueur and perfume.

Tarragon is a popular seasoning for sauerbraten and meat and game marinades and is excellent with green salads, potato dishes and mushrooms. Many vegetable ragouts with tomatoes, aubergine / eggplant, zucchini or carrots can be rounded off with this herb.


Seasoning tip

Tarragon combines well with chervil, parsley, chives and basil. It is also good with dill, bay leaf, rosemary, thyme and capers.


Fresh tarragon should be used very sparingly, because the flavour is relatively dominant, and cooking intensifies its aroma. Dried leaves do not season as much and can be used more liberally.





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