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Little Dragon

With a name like Artemisia dracunculus, you would think that it was referring to Count Dracula. But on the contrary, it is the botanical name for a sweet little gem called tarragon.

Tarragon is a perennial herb with an interesting story. As early as 500 BC, tarragon was used by the Greeks as well as the Arabs, and it was alleged at that time, that tarragon was called little Dragon Mugwort, either because of its exceptionally potent flavor or because of the strange shape of its serpentine roots. It was touted as curing nasty little bug bites and stings, as well as, venomous bites from much larger and beastlier animals. The French have since then continued calling tarragon, estragon meaning, "little dragon".

There area few types of tarragon; Russian and Mexican Tarragon and, of course, French tarragon. The well-known French tarragon, which is native to Southern Europe, has a glossy narrow, spear-shaped leaf with smooth edges and a bittersweet, licorice-like aroma. The Russian tarragon, native to Siberia, has a bitterer flavor and spikier leaves. Both Russian and Mexican varieties lack the lovely licorice flavor that makes French Tarragon so exceptional in cooking.

Another unique characteristic of tarragon, in comparison to other perennial herbs, is in the cultivation. True French tarragon rarely produces fertile flowers, which makes seeding impossible. But it can be planted by using cuttings from mature plants by dividing the roots during early spring months.

The French have long cultivated tarragon mainly for culinary purposes; it is especially used as an ingredient of fines herbes, dijon mustard and in making sauces, like the classic Bearnaise sauce. Try it on fish, chicken, vegetable and egg dishes, such as omelets. It also blends well with wine and shallots in making flavorsome vinegar. When used in salads, the fragrant leaves tend to temper the coolness of other herbs like chervil, and basil. I think just a teaspoon of dried tarragon mixed in a potato salad would taste awesome; it may even rock a mash-potato dish. What do you think?

Here's an easy recipe for making Creamy Tarragon Sauce:


Creamy Tarragon Sauce click link