Given its fantastic flavour, I don't understand why it can be a bit of challenge to get fresh tarragon in some of the UK's supermarkets. It tastes like something between basil and anise, but little sweeter and more peppery, delicate yet very aromatic.
Apart from the flavour, tarragon leaves are rich in iodine, mineral salts and vitamins A and C. They also contain properties that aid digestion and can act as an appetite stimulant, so they are widely used by herbalists.
- Tarragon’s name derives from Latin and means “little dragon” - probably due to its supposed ability to cure snake bites. In ancient Greece, the herb was also used as a remedy for toothache.
- There are two variants of the tarragon plant: the French variety, which is much stronger and more potent but can only grow from cuttings, and the Russian one, which can grow from seed but is blander in taste.
- Tarragon (presumably the French variety) was a prized plant during the reign on Henry VIII and was grown in the royal and nobles’ gardens around the country. It has been said that Henry VIII divorced Catherine of Aragon because of her reckless use of this precious herb.
- The famous character of Estragon in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot is named after the French word for tarragon.
- The American food writer James Beard, (1903-85) who is widely regarded as the father of American gastronomy, once said : “I believe that if ever I had to practice cannibalism, I might manage if there were enough tarragon around”.