Tarragon, also known as estragon, is a species of perennial herb in the sunflower family. It is widespread in the wild across much of Eurasia and North America, and is cultivated for culinary and medicinal purposes.
Tarragon is one of the four fine herbes of French cooking, and is particularly suitable for chicken, fish, and egg dishes. Tarragon is the main flavoring component of Bearnaise sauce. Fresh, lightly bruised sprigs of tarragon are steeped in vinegar to produce tarragon vinegar.
Tarragon is used to flavor a popular carbonated soft drink in the countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and, by extension, Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. The drink, named Tarhun , is made out of sugary tarragon concentrate and colored bright green.
Tarragon has an aromatic property reminiscent of anise, due to the presence of estragole, a known carcinogen and teratogen in mice. The European Union investigation revealed that the danger of estragole is minimal even at 100–1,000 times the typical consumption seen in humans.
The elusive flavor of tarragon, sometimes described as "bittersweet," does not share the long history of use that most herbs do. It came into popularity in the 1600's in France. You will find it in many classic French sauces including: bearnaise, hollandaise, tartar and bechamel. It is a wonderful fish herb for sole, shrimp and other seafood, even lake fish. Add tarragon to chicken, rabbit or veal, shrimp or tuna salad.