Tarragon is prized by French cooks, so much so that it is sometimes called the king of herbs. The type of tarragon used in French cooking is — appropriately enough — called French tarragon. It grows well all over the world. If you wind up with too much fresh tarragon from your garden (or buy more than you need), you should take steps to keep it from going to waste. Drying is one of the ways to preserve fresh tarragon. It will lose some of its flavors, but you can add it to dishes earlier in the cooking process to partially compensate.
If you grow tarragon, you will have to harvest it at the right time to ensure that it is as flavorful as possible. Timing the harvest right may help it retain some of its licorice and basil flavor once you dry it. The best time to harvest tarragon is after it buds, but before it flowers. Cut the stems about an inch above the base of the plant to make hanging them easier if you plan to air-dry.
Let’s take a look at how to dry tarragon for the best flavor.
Air drying is the easiest way to dry herbs like tarragon. The simplest way to air dry the herb will be to tie the stems together in a bundle with some twine and hang them with the leaves down and the cut stems up. The ideal spot will be dark and have dry, moving air. If the air is not moving, the herb can take a long time to dry and mold can become an issue. The temperature should be warm but not too warm since excessive heat can diminish flavor.
As an optional step, you can place the bundle in a paper bag. The paper bag protects the tarragon leaves from dust and will catch any falling leaves. Poke some holes in the bag to allow air in and out. You will know that the leaves are dry when they are crisp and brittle.
In a dehydrator
A food dehydrator that has a setting for herbs is the most reliable way to dry fresh tarragon for long-term storage. Simply place your tarragon sprigs on the dehydrator trays and set it to 95 degrees Fahrenheit if the device’s thermostat allows you to set a specific temperature. Let it run until the leaves are dry. After that, remove the leaves from the stems and place them in an airtight container for long-term storage.
In the oven
A standard oven is a convenient option for drying tarragon but may not provide ideal results unless you are very careful. You will have to keep an eye on your tarragon to ensure that it does not burn. Dry tarragon in the oven by spreading the sprigs on the racks or baking sheets. Heat the oven to its lowest temperature setting, which is usually around 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
Keep the oven door open so that the temperature stays low. Too much heat will destroy the herb’s essential oils, which are the compounds that give tarragon its flavor. The open door will also allow moisture to escape. After an hour, turn the oven off and let the tarragon cool off with the oven door still open.
In the microwave
Dry small batches of tarragon in the microwave by placing them on paper towels and microwaving in 30-second bursts.