This year, the French tarragon — thriving, delicately flavorful and beautiful, is having a terrific year. For reasons I don’t fully comprehend, the thyme did not survive last winter’s bitter cold but the tarragon did. (Thyme and tarragon are perennial herbs which I leaf-mulch heavily in the fall to help them survive temperature fluctuations and extremes.) French tarragon is absolutely delicious raw in salads and added to dishes near the end of the cooking.
French tarragon has long, flat, slender spear-like leaves and, when plucked from the woody stem and crushed, a delicate anise flavor. According to Leanne Kitchen in The Produce Bible, tarragon came late to European cooking, arriving in France and England in the 16th century. Its ancient ancestor and current cousin Russian tarragon originate in distant Siberia and Central Asia. Of course, the French adore tarragon and it appears in classic béarnaise sauce.
I adore fresh tarragon leaves chopped in roasted beet salad with balsamic, olive oil and goat cheese. (Check your beets because baby beets are coming in right now for roasting and eating.) It’s also excellent chopped fresh in vinaigrette over roasted asparagus. And it’s easy to drop leaves into white wine vinegar or olive oil to infuse and flavor them.
What’s your favorite use of tarragon?