Q & A – Tarragon

By / Food / August 25th, 2011 / Like

I was given some tarragon recently. How should it be used?


Cure for snake bite? Disclaimer: I’m no medical doctor; so, you probably shouldn’t quote me on this one. But, documents dating way back do claim that tarragon was prescribed for that particularly odious predicament. How did our ancestors arrive at such a conclusion? Why, by the shape of the plant, of course. When full grown, the plant’s branches seemed, in their eyes, to be serpentine. Hence the correlation.

There are two types of tarragon. One is French; the other is Russian, and both are perennials. They look exactly the same, too. But, that’s where any similarities end. Russian tarragon is not the kind you’d take to a party. Let it loose and it will take over. It will drink, eat and take up comfortable sitting room leaving little for the rest. Russian tarragon behaves like a weed. Its flavour can best described as bland.

French tarragon, believe it or not, can trace its roots back to Russia, too. But, unlike it’s Russian namesake, French tarragon is very well-mannered its garden plot and quite tasty. This is the variety you want for your culinary adventures. Anise or liquorice-like in flavour, it lends a subtle sweet and intriguing component to chicken, fish and egg dishes. It’s also a vital part of Béarnaise sauce. Classic French cuisine often calls for the addition of fine herbs to the pot or pan. Tarragon is one of the ingredients along with parsley, chives and chervil.

One final tip: taste before buying, if possible. French tarragon is sometimes mislabeled. You may end up with the Russian variety, which just won’t give you the same result.


Rosemary Mantini has always loved words. When she isn't working as the Associate Editor at Tidings Magazine, she's helping others achieve their writing dreams, and sometimes she even relaxes with a good book and a glass of wine.

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