Tarragon is a commonly used culinary herb that is often used to season sauces. The herb is also used in medicine. However, due to an ingredient called Methylchavicol (Estragol), it is sometimes criticized. Originally from Central Asia, Artemisia has different subspecies today. The most important are the French, Russian and German tarragon.
Profile of Tarragon:
Scientific name: Artemisia dracunculus
Plant family: composite, asters
Other names: mistletoe, garden tarragon, (common) yarrow
Sowing time / Planting time: March- April
Flowering period: May-June
Harvest time: before flowering
Location: sunny locations
Soil quality: moist and nutrient-rich soils
Use as a medicinal herb: cough, stomach and intestinal complaints, nausea, nervous restlessness, toothache
Use as spice herb: meat, egg dishes, cheese, sauces, fish
Plant characteristics and classification of Tarragon
Origin of tarragon
Tarragon is a plant that is native to the colder regions of Central Asia and Siberia and spread from there through man to Arabia and Europe.
Distribution of tarragon
The plant is widespread in the wild across much of Eurasia and North America. Where tarragon is cultivated, it sometimes escaped and can also be found on the edges of paths and fields.
Plant order of tarragon
The tarragon (Artemisia dracunulus) belongs to the asters family and is distantly related to other herbs such as dandelion, calendula or camomile. In closer relationship, the plant belongs to the genus Artemisia, which probably forms one of the most important herb variety. Other well-known herbs such as wormwood, mugwort, southernwood or wormseed belong to this genus.
Occasionally you can find several types of tarragon, particularly German tarragon, French tarragon and Russian tarragon. These types all belong to the species Artemisia dracunculus and in the botanical sense are varieties. The Russian tarragon represents the basic form.
Look and characteristics of tarragon
Tarragon is a perennial herb that can reach stature heights between 100 and 150 cm (40 and 60 in). However, when it is cultivated in gardens or on the balcony, it is usually much smaller. The plant roots with up to 15 cm relatively flat (shallow-rooted plant). It forms quite small, mostly light brown to creamy white, root hairs.
The dark green leaves of tarragon are quite narrow and tapered. They are usually between 2.5 and 3.5 cm (about 1 in) long for a fully grown plant. In general, the leaves of the Russian species are slightly longer than those of the French or German species.
The yellow-greenish flowers usually appear between May and June in panicle-like inflorescences. After flowering, inconspicuous, flat fruits are produced, which are called Achaeans. The varieties German and French tarragon do not form seeds and can only be propagated by division or cloning.
Tarragon – cultivation and care
Tarragon especially loves sunny and sheltered locations with moist, well-drained and more neutral soils. Although when sun is preferred, the herb grows even in partially shaded locations with moderately dry conditions.
Sowing should be done in the spring between mid-March and end of April. A preculture in seed trays is recommended, but not mandatory. Tarragon is a classic light germinator, so the seeds should only be pressed slightly into the substrate. The substrate should be nutrient-poor. In the field, it should only be sown towards the end of April or beginning of May. At this time, plants grown in preculture can also be replanted.
A single Estragron plant needs a lot of space. The distance between the plants should be at least 50 to 60 cm (20 to 24 in). On the balcony, the plants should be cultivated in wide pots. Incidentally, the young plants react very strongly to food competitors. It should therefore be paid close attention to weeds especially at the beginning.
Tarragon is hardy and does not need to be replanted during the cold season. Although the plant is perennial, the plants should never be in the same location for more than four years.
The French and German tarragon do not form seeds and can only be propagated vegetatively. For this only older plants should be divided and planted to a new location. If no plants are available, some plant centers, plant markets or online retailers offer these species.
The plant should never completely dry out and be moistened within the roots with water. Too much moisture and waterlogging should be avoided strongly, as this can quickly lead to the death of the plant.
Tarragon needs little to medium nutrients and is well-balanced with most soils. Smaller amounts of compost or an organic fertilizer (cattle manure, fertilizer pellets) are recommended in spring. Potted cultures should be fertilized approximately every six to eight weeks, as a stronger nutrient leaching is to be expected here.
Harvesting tarragon should always take place before flowering, otherwise the herb will lose noticeable aroma. Upon further use, the inflorescences can be cut off. The leaves are the most aromatic just before flowering. Even if tarragon is best used fresh, the popular spice herb can be stored frozen. The plucked leaves can also be dried, but here is to be expected in terms of quality losses in flavor. When harvesting, only the leaves, not the flowers or twigs should be harvested or used.
Diseases and pests
With good care and good site conditions, diseases and pests are rarely to be expected. However, it is not uncommon for aphids to attack the plant. For larger specimens, occasional collection or treatment with a biological agent will help. Hard chemical treatment should be avoided here. In addition, rust or mildew may infest the plant. This is usually the case when the tarragon has had to undergo prolonged periods of stress (such as dryness, predators).
Tarragon and its use
Tarragon is a popular culinary herb and the main ingredient in many dishes. Also, the herb is sometimes mentioned and recommended as a medicinal plant.
Tarragon in the kitchen
Different types of tarragon are distinguished. The Russian tarragon, which is considered the basic form, is a bit weaker in taste than the French tarragon. This is because the Russian tarragon has significantly lower levels of essential oils and flavonoids, which make the typical taste of estragon. The German tarragon can be described as an intermediate form and lies both in the bitterness and the aroma between the other two varieties. Overall, the aroma can be described as sweet aromatic with a fine touch of anise.
The leaves go well with meat (especially lamb and poultry), egg and cheese and cream dishes. In some cookbooks, tarragon is always recommended to use pure, meaning without other herbs. Others recommend that herbs such as chervil or lovage make an interesting addition.
Tarragon can be cooked with the food. The aroma is not affected when cooking, on the contrary, the taste is even more intense.
Tarragon is one of the main ingredients of the Bearnaise sauce. This sauce is mainly made from egg yolk and butter and is especially refined with herbs such as chervil and tarragon. The sauce is mainly served with grilled meat or fish.
Another delicacy is estragon mustard, which is mostly made from Dijon mustard, some honey and vinegar. Such mustard goes well with grilled meat and vegetable dishes as well as with fish.
Tarragon as a medicinal herb
Tarragon is occasionally used or recommended as a medicinal herb. Due to the containing ingredients the herb is said to support digestion and have an appetite-stimulating effect. Furthermore, it shall relieve lighter toothache.
Tarragon is used as a medicinal herb against epileptic diseases in some Arab countries. As effective substances in studies the monoterpenes present in the essential oil are mentioned. In Chinese medicine, tarragon is considered to be relaxing for Qi and is especially relevant for the organs spleen, stomach and liver. In homeopathy, the plant is sometimes administered as a menstrual enhancer
Even in folk medicine tarragon is well known as a medicinal herb, although it is rarely used. It is mainly used for complaints of the gastrointestinal tract, for detoxification, as an appetite stimulant and for the promotion of digestion.
The main use of estragon is to strengthen digestive organs. With its bitter substance tarragon stimulates the production of gastric juices. Therefore, it is often used as a spice of indigestive foods. The essential oils of the tarragon help against flatulence. For this you can drink a tarragon tea. Even if the appetite is lost after a long illness, this tea can help. The herb should also help against hiccups when chewing the fresh leaves.
Tarragon is used today for the treatment of the following complaints:
- gall bladder weakness
- kidney stimulating
- loss of appetite
- menopausal symptoms
- muscle cramps
- promoting metabolism
- promoting menstrual
- spring fever
- stomach weakness
- vitamin C deficiency
Note: During pregnancy and breastfeeding, however, it is recommended to abstain from estragol-containing herbs (tarragon, basil) as much as possible. The content of estragole is higher in the varieties of German and French tarragon than in the Russian tarragon.
Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.
Buy tarragon – What to pay attention to?
Tarragon has lost some importance as an aromatic herbs in recent years, because the substance Estragol is suspected of being mutagenic. In some supermarkets and in most gardening markets, however, can be obtained easily fresh plants. Most of the German or French types of tarragon are offered, which are also slightly more aromatic than the Russian type. Insofar as the labelling is correct, the botanical name for French tarragon is Artemisia dracunculus var. Sativus. or Artemisia dracunculus cv. for the German tarragon. When buying, make sure that the plant is free of white spots (thrips) and free of rust fungi.
Most seed manufacturers also offer seeds. However, only the Russian tarragon is available in seed form. German and French tarragon are both infertile and do not form seeds.
Many herbalists also sell dried herbs in their product range. Tarragon is usually offered rubbed. Although dried tarragon has lost some of its aroma, it can still be used excellently for seasoning food. It should be noted that the packaging is flavor-sealed.
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