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Tarragon is a herb that has a somewhat intense flavor and that is very versatile with a wide range of uses in lots of different types of cooking. Its flavor combines sweet and aniseed notes with a hint of vanilla, making it ideal for a range of different bakes.
Like many herbs, tarragon actually has some interesting legends associated with it. The word is actually derived from the Latin dracunculus, which means “little dragon” and it is said to have been gifted by the Greek goddess Artemis to Chiron, the centaur.
Tarragon is believed to be native to Siberia and Mongolia, though it has ties to the French and crops up a lot in French cookbooks.It is thought that tarragon was brought to Italy in the tenth Century via the Mongols who were invading at the time. They were known to use it as both a sleep aid and breath freshener. They also used it as a seasoning and hence it is found in many Italian cookbooks and pasta recipes too.
The volatile oil that gives tarragon much of its flavor and aroma is the same found in anise. Tarragon is also useful for treating a variety of ailments for this reason.
Tarragon Use in Cooking
Unfortunately, the active ingredient in tarragon is known to degrade very quickly. That means that it is very important to store it correctly. Freshly cut tarragon should be wrapped up in kitchen paper and placed in a fridge. You can even go further and keep it in a fridge in a thermos jar with the tissue. You will find that it lasts like this for 4-5 days.
You can also buy tarragon in a dried form to keep in a spice grinder. In this form, it will last closer to 4-6 months.
Of course, fresh tarragon has a slightly richer and more nuanced taste. If you want a longer-lasting supply, then the good news is that it is possible to cultivate your own tarragon on a windowsill.
When choosing tarragon it is also important to ensure you choose the right kind. That means picking tarragon with fresh looking leaves. Avoid any tarragon that shows signs of wilting or discoloration. The French tarragon is considered to be better quality than the Russian tarragon.
While there are many uses for tarragon, among the most popular are cooking fish and poultry. Get out that skillet, sauce pan or your oven mitt and add some flavor! It also works extremely well with salad dressings, and can be used to add extra flavor to a white wine vinegar.
Another great recipe you can make with tarragon is a fish lasagna. This one will use salmon, cod, prawns, and muscles, along with some English mustard, garlic, baby spinach, and cheddar – with just a little tarragon to round things off.
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