Tarragon is a culinary herb with leaves that are skinny, aromatic and glossy. There are three varieties, that include: Mexican, Russian and French tarragon.
French tarragon is most commonly used in cooking as it is the most flavorful of the three varieties.
The Attributes Of Tarragon
Fresh verses Dried
As with all herbs, there is a great difference between fresh and dried tarragon.
The plant’s flavors or essential oils easily evaporate during the drying process and therefore, most chefs or cooks will not use dried tarragon as it has lost the fine and subtle characteristics that make fresh so appealing.
If you choose to use dried tarragon over fresh, the conversion is 1 teaspoon of dried for 1 tablespoon of fresh.
The Herbs Flavor
Tarragon is a fragrant herb that makes a great herbaceous addition to a variety of dishes (recipes to follow).
French Tarragon has a sweet and bitter flavor that includes vanilla, mint, pepper, and eucalyptus.
French tarragon’s distinctive flavor is also often compared to licorice or anise.
Russian Tarragon is dominated by a sour, bitter taste and nothing more. In cooking, it loses what little flavor it has easily. Therefore, Russian tarragon doesn’t score much on culinary merit.
Left To Right Is The Russian Tarragon & The Mexican Tarragon
Mexican Tarragon is a lesser-known variety of this fragrant herb and has a more anise-rich flavor. It is considered to be closer to the French variety than Russian tarragon.
Cooking With Tarragon
Before adding fresh tarragon to your recipe, the leaves need to be rinsed and patted dry. Remove the leaves from the stem and discard. The leaves can be removed by simply by running your fingers along the stem from the top down.
The leaves can either be used whole or chopped but be careful as they bruise easily.
Fresh tarragon should be used raw or added toward the end of cooking. If tarragon is left to cook for to long, the flavor will turn bitter.
Dried tarragon is added early on in recipes but will not create the same effect as fresh due to its diminished flavor. During the drying process of the herb.
Tarragon is an ingredient in many French dishes. Because of its delicate flavor, it pairs well with fish, chicken, and eggs.
Chicken Dishes With Tarragon
In France, tarragon is said to be the “king of herbs” for its ability to elevate a dish.
Tarragon pairs particularly well with acidic flavors like lemon and vinegar, and is commonly combined with vinegar to make a mixture that is useful in salad dressings and marinades.
Substitutions For Tarragon
If a recipe you are using ask for fresh tarragon and you don’t have any, you could substitute equal amounts of fresh chervil or fennel fronds, or a pinch of anise seed or fennel seed for every tablespoon of fresh tarragon called for. These substitutes will provide the licorice flavor that fresh tarragon does.
If the licorice taste is not that important, than consider using these fresh herb substitutes, basil, dill, or marjoram.
How To Store Tarragon
Typically you can buy half an ounce of fresh tarragon in what is called a clam shell. If you find yourself with extra after using what your recipe calls for, you can store the leftover for another day.
Simply trim the ends of the herb and place them in a jar filled with an inch of water. Tent a plastic bag over the top and store it in the refrigerator. Change the water every other day or so, just to keep things fresh.
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