Tarragon – how to use it and what it tastes best with

Tarragon is one of the kitchen’s most mysterious herbs with nobody really knowing where it came from. Our Vapianisti reveal why tarragon is sometimes called the “dragon herb” and which dishes it complements.

Nobody knows exactly where tarragon originates from but it is thought to be indigenous to Siberia. The earliest records of tarragon date back to 15th century France, where even today it remain one of the country’s most popular herbs. As a star ingredient in the country’s celebrated “sauce béarnaise”, tarragon is an indispensible element of French cuisine. As well as sauces, tarragon can also be used in most soups, dips, fish dishes and poultry recipes too. However, our Vapianisti warn against combining it with too many other herbs and spices as this can alter its true flavour.  

The term “dragon herb” is derived from the Latin “Artemisia dracunculus” and is probably linked to the twisted, coiled shape of the root.


The difference between Russian & French tarragon

Tarragon tastes most aromatic just before it blossoms between April and June. After sowing from seed, leave the plant to grow with as many shoots and leaves as possible over the first year. This makes it more resilient and allows it to thrive, meaning herbs can be harvested over a longer period.  Tarragon develops its fine, aromatic flavour when it is freshly picked.

“If the plant has more shoots and leaves that you need, mix them with a little water in an ice cube tray and then freeze,” our Vapianisti says. However, don’t attempt to dry tarragon, he warns. “The herb loses most of its flavour in the process.”

Russian tarragon can be grown from seed and is the only variety that can survive a hard winter. It’s usually grown as a decorative plant though, and is not really suitable for the kitchen. The flavour is a lot weaker than its French counterpart with a bitter undertone. French tarragon spreads at the roots and its flavour recalls elements of aniseed, fennel or liquorice. “It’s easy to determine which type you’re dealing with,” our Vapianisti advises. “If you can pick up essences of aniseed or fennel, it’s the aromatic French variety. When rolled between the fingers, the Russian plant doesn’t really smell of anything.” 

Hendrik, Product Development