By Heidi Lewis
Love that word, soupí§on. It sounds like the kind of word a French cartoon chef might use—eyes closed, spoon to his nose. From the French “to suspect,” it means “a little bit”— as in, Je sens juste une soupí§on d’estragon (I taste just a hint of tarragon).
Tarragon is a member of the culinary quartet of fine herbs in classic French cooking, along with chervil, parsley, and chives. As a fresh herb it is strong, with a slight anise taste. Its name comes from the French for “little dragon” in reference to its serpentine root—in the garden it’s a plant that must be divided or it strangles itself.
Tarragon’s dragon lore has associated it with the medicinal qualities to quell tooth pain and bug bites. To quote Bruce Burnett, author of Herb Wise: “In the magical realm, tarragon is sacred to the feminine aspect of the Universe. The herb is used to invoke Lillith (allegedly Adam’s first wife before Eve was created) and in kitchen magic induces tranquility and compassion amongst the guests. This is presumably contingent upon their being welcome in the first place.”
For your guests and family alike, tarragon will be a welcome flavoring, sprucing up any everyday veggie or egg dish with gourmet flair. Ideal on a simple sauté of radishes, it’s the quintessential essence in a béarnaise sauce and the transformative element in salad dressing—tarragon on everything! American chef and food writer James Beard said, ”˜“I believe that if I ever had to practice cannibalism, I might manage if there were enough tarragon around.”
Preparation: Separate leaves from woody stem. Chop finely or use whole. Place a few sprigs in a jar of vinegar for a few days to make an infusion.
Storage: Wrap bottom of bunch in a moist paper towel and place in the fridge.