Tarragon, often used in French and Russian cuisine, originated in Russia, the Himalayas and western Asia. It is a small perennial shrub that can grow up to three feet in height and has smooth, dark-green leaves with pointed ends. The name tarragon is believed to have been borrowed from its name in Persian: tarkhūn.
Tarragon is commonly used in egg, fish, and chicken dishes. It is the main flavoring component of Béarnaise sauce and fresh tarragon is also used to make tarragon vinegar. Tarragon adds flavor to tartar sauce and mustard recipes, but can be overpowering if used in excess. When purchasing fresh tarragon, look for leaves that are firm and brightly colored; avoid tarragon that is wilted or pale in color.
Tarragon contains tannins, flavonoids, and various volatile oils, which contribute to its unique aromatic quality. Tarragon is a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, pyridoxine, niacin, riboflavin, calcium, manganese, iron, and zinc. Additionally, fresh tarragon is an excellent source of dietary antioxidants.
Tarragon has been widely used as an appetite stimulant, and some research studies suggest that the polyphenols in tarragon may help lower blood sugar levels. In addition, tarragon exhibits a pain relieving effect believed to be associated with eugenol, a compound also found in clove oil.
Add versatile tarragon to your dishes when cooking and enjoy its unique flavor and health benefits!
This article was submitted by Matt Swader, RD, Clinical Dietitian at the Allen Hospital.