There are two main types of tarragon; French tarragon and Russian tarragon. There is also Mexican Tarragon or Winter tarragon, but this is a member of the marigold family, while the other two are Asteraceae or members of the aster family. French Tarragon is Artemisia dracunculus, or Artemis’ little dragon. It is said that the goddess Artemis (Roman name Diana) gave tarragon to the centaur, Chiron. Russian tarragon is Artemisia dracunculoides, and is considered to be inferior both in taste and aroma to French tarragon. Tarragon is native to parts of Asia including Pakistan, and to Siberia and southern Russia. It is believed to have got its dragon name because of its roots, and its reputation for strangling other plants.
Russian tarragon
In ancient Greece its roots were made into an infusion and this was used to stop toothache. As a folk remedy, travelers put it into their shoes to prevent fatigue. It has also been used to prevent flatulence, colic and was believed to cure rheumatism and to soothe the nerves when used as a tisane. It was also believed to be good for snake bites and the bites from other venomous creatures. In Persia it was, and still is believed in modern Iran, that eating tarragon will improve the appetite.
Centuries ago it was eaten as a vegetable, probably boiled in the same way as the Greeks cook their ‘horta’ and the way saag is cooked on the subcontinent.
It is generally believed that it was introduced into Europe by the Mongols and the crusaders when they returned from the Crusades.
The usually practical John Gerard wrote that if you put a flax seed into a radish root or a ‘sea onion’, tarragon would grow, but it was a relatively new herb to Britain in his time.
John Evelyn (1620-1706) the herbalist and diarist wrote that tarragon ‘is highly cordial and friend to the head, heart and liver.’
Tarragon is mainly used in cooking and is one of the staple herbs of French cuisine: they call it the ‘King of Herbs’. It is necessary to use it in the classic sauces, BĂ©arnaise and Tartare. If you see recipes which call for a bunch of ‘fines herbes’ then you need a bunch of herbs consisting of parsley, chervil, chives and tarragon. Tarragon should be added about 15 minutes before the end of any cooking process, so that it does not lose its flavour.
You can make your own tarragon vinegar by putting a sprig of the fresh herb into a bottle of distilled white vinegar and leaving it until you think it tastes good. It’s better if you put it into white wine vinegar in my opinion. (Tarragon vinegar should be the only one used for a good sauce tartare.) The suggested substitutes for tarragon are a pinch of anise seed, or a little fennel seed and chervil, but the flavour will not be the same as intended. One tbsp of fresh tarragon is equal to 1 tsp dried tarragon.
Below is a recipe for a side dish of potato salad which calls for tarragon dressing. Try it with fish, chicken, or a variety of other salad dishes.

300 gr potatoes, peeled, boiled and cubed
1 small onion, sliced thinly
1 clove garlic cut in half
1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp chives, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3 tbsps olive oil
2 tbsps white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp Dijon mustard or a whole grain mustard of your choice
¾ tsp dried tarragon
black pepper to taste

Put all the ingredients for the dressing together in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake well to mix them.
Put all the ingredients for the salad in a bowl which has been rubbed with the cut garlic.
Pour the dressing over the potato salad and serve.
This has Taste and is a Treat.

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