Tarragon: An Herb Favorite of French Cuisine

Tarragon is a small, shrubby herb that is native to western Asia and southern Russia. Today, it grows wild across a great deal of North America and Eurasia with France leading the world in cultivation.

Tarragon Flavor Profile

This herb is very aromatic and has a flavor that is slightly bittersweet. Its taste is somewhat similar to that of anise, fennel, and licorice, but at the same time unmistakably its own.

This particular herb is one that should be used in moderation, adding a little at a time to your dish as you cook. Its unique flavor can easily overpower a dish if you add even a little too much.

Dried tarragon vs fresh tarragon

Health Benefits of Tarragon

While tarragon has fewer health benefits than many other herbs, it still has plenty to offer. One quality tarragon boasts is an incredibly high antioxidant content. In fact, it is among the highest of the common herbs. This means it can give your immune system a boost, help you maintain optimum health and reduce the absorption of harmful free radicals.

Other benefits of tarragon include the following:

  • Excellent source of calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, potassium, copper, and zinc
  • Stimulates the appetite
  • Reduces blood sugar levels
  • Acts as a mild anesthetic and antiseptic for toothaches
  • Helpful in curing insomnia

Common Uses of Tarragon

Tarragon is most commonly used in French cooking and is considered one of the four fines herbes. Its unique, bittersweet flavor makes it particularly suitable for fish, chicken and egg dishes. It is popularly used to create tarragon vinegar and is the main flavor component of Bearnaise sauce.

In Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, sugary tarragon concentrate is used to flavor a popular carbonated soft drink.

Tarragon has a distinctive place in Iranian cuisine, where it is used as a side dish, in Persian-style pickles, and in stews. Hungarians enjoy a traditional chicken soup that is flavored with this herb and in Slovenia, a variation of the traditional nut roll sweet cake calls for tarragon.

The flavor profile of tarragon makes it a more daring choice than many other seasonings, but it also has the ability to add a certain complexity to a dish that nothing else can. By sampling the most popular dishes in which this herb is found, you’ll be well on your way to understanding exactly how to use this herb to your advantage.