Other Names: Ai hao (Chinese); dragoncello (Italian); drakebloed (Dutch); drakontio or tarankon (Greek); estrag√£o (Portuguese); estragon or herbe dragonne (French); estragon (Russian); estragon or tarragona (Spanish); tarhon (Romanian); tarhun or tuzla otu (Turkish); tarkhun (Arabic).

General Description: Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus_) has long, thin, tender, dark green leaves and a sweet aromatic flavor combining elements of fennel, anise, and licorice. Tarragon is popularly linked to dragons, perhaps because of its coiled, serpentine root system and the widespread belief that tarragon could not only ward off serpents and dragons but also heal snake bites. There’s some confusion about tarragon because the most aromatic cultivar, French tarragon (_A. dracunculus var. sativa_), is difficult to find and grow, while the more common Russian tarragon (_A. dracunculus), often sold to home gardeners, has little flavor. Supermarkets usually sell French tarragon. This sweetly spicy herb is a special favorite in France. It is well suited to chicken, eggs, or mushroom dishes. Tarragon sprigs are commonly used to flavor white wine vinegar.

Season: Tarragon is at its best in spring. Later in the season, when the weather gets hot, tarragon bleaches out or spoils quickly.

Purchase and Avoid: Fresh tarragon is best, but if you use dried, make sure its color and aroma haven’t faded.

Storage: Tarragon is quite tender and freezes easily, so store it in the warmest part of the refrigerator, generally on the top shelf, or place in a vase of water, as for a bouquet of flowers.

Serving Suggestions: Whisk together red wine or tarragon vinegar with olive oil, Dijon mustard, chopped tarragon, salt, and pepper for a French vinaigrette. Add chopped tarragon to tartar sauce for fried fish. Julienne carrots and turnips and toss with lemon juice, olive oil, and chopped shallots and tarragon.

Food Affinities: Asparagus, beef, carrot, cauliflower, chicken, fish, lamb, mayonnaise, mushroom, mustard, olive oil, shrimp, sour cream, tomato, vinaigrettes.

from Quirk Books: