Background and Uses
Tarragon is a perennial herb in the sunflower family. The most common species of tarragon used is what is known as French tarragon. The word tarragon is derived from the Latin dracunculus, “a little dragon.” Much of this association with dragons comes from the serpentine shape of the herb’s roots. As with the other Dragon herbs, tarragon is believed to cure the bites and stings of venomous beasts and mad dogs. Tarragon is thought to be a native of Siberia and Mongolia.
Tarragon is most commonly used in cooking, but also has several health benefits. Laboratory studies on tarragon extract shows certain compounds in them inhibit platelet activation, preventing platelet aggregation and adhesion to the blood vessel wall. Thus, it helps prevent clot formation inside tiny blood vessels of heart and brain protecting from heart attack and stroke.The herb is very rich source of vitamins such as vitamin C and vitamin A as well as B-complex group of vitamins such as folates, pyridoxine, niacin, riboflavin, etc., that function as antioxidant as well as co-factors for enzymes in the metabolism. Tarragon is a notably excellent source of minerals like calcium, manganese, iron, magnesium, copper, potassium, and zinc. Manganese is utilized by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is essential for cellular respiration (co-factors for cytochrome-oxidase enzyme) and blood cell production.
Tarragon cannot be grown from seed as the seeds produced by the flowers are sterile and new plants are grown from root transplants. Seedlings can be transplanted outdoors once temperatures have significantly warmed. Tarragon herb plants should be grown in areas receiving full sun. Space tarragon plants approximately 18 to 24 inches apart to ensure adequate air circulation as well. They should also be located in well-drained, fertile soil, although tarragon can tolerate poor soil as well.
Harvesting and Processing Tarragon
Both the leaves and flowers of tarragon herb plants can be harvested. Harvesting usually takes place in late summer. While best used fresh, tarragon plants can be frozen or dried until ready for use. Plants should be divided every three to five years as well.