French Tarragon

An herb grown as an annual in temperate climates and perennial in hot climates, it does best in zones 3-11. Tarragon originally arose from both Siberia and southern Europe to form the French and Russian tarragon we know today. The leaves contain an essential volatile oil which is lost on drying. Tarragon is mostly used in cooking, used for dressings, salads, vinegar and pickles. Grow in full sun with well-drained soil. It will need plenty of sun and is best on the dry side.

Russian Tarragon is believed to have been brought to Europe from Mongolia and Siberia by invading Mongols in the 13th century. It was native to these remote Chinese and Russian areas where it was cooked and eaten as a vegetable. Perhaps its remote birthplace contributes to its lack of popularity prior to this time, but by the 15th century, it was popular enough in England to make its way to American shores with the colonists. Artemisia was a botanist and medical researcher and the genus artemisia was named after her. The genus includes over 400 plants, including the delectable herb tarragon.
Artemisia has a colourful and rather dubious history: Artemisia was the wife and sister (yes, that is correct) of the Greek/Persian King Mausolous from which we get the word mausoleum. The species name dracunculus means “little dragon” (diminutive of draco), from where the common name of Dragons Wort is also derived. In the Middle Ages, tarragon was known as tragonia and tarchon, generally believed to be Arabic loans. In Modern Arabic, the name is tarkhun, the origin of which is unclear, but may be a loan from Old Greek, perhaps akin to drakōn, meaning “dragon” or “snake”. The plant was linked to dragons because of the serpent-shaped rhizome and there was a wide-spread belief that tarragon could not only ward off serpents and dragons but could also heal snake bites. Home gardeners with tarragon plants will know that if not divided regularly, tarragon will actually strangle itself with its own root system.
The names of tarragon in modern languages of Europe and Western Asia are mostly derived from the old Arabic or Greek names, e.g. English tarragon, Finnish rakuna, Spanish tarragona and Hebrew taragon. In French, the name acquired an initial “e” (estragon), which then spread culinarily to many other languages, e.g. Scandinavian esdragon and Russian estragon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *