Guide To Herbs Day 9: Tarragon

We are into week two of the herb guide, where we are pulling together the basic facts about some of the best herbs to keep close to your kitchen: what they are, how to store them, and what to do with them. We kicked things off last week with a prelude, looked at parsley, basil, and rosemary, discussed why dill is more than a pickle, checked out cilantro, discovered what is up with herbes de Provence, mined the multitude of uses for chives, and looked at sausage's best friend sage. Today we are moving on to tarragon.

Tarragon puts a distinct stamp on any recipe, mainly due to its licorice-like quality. It's one of the few herbs that loses its aromatics and potency when dried, so using fresh is usually best. You often find tarragon in vinaigrettes (in fact it is a common vinegar infusion), in marinades, and in sauces, such as the classic BĂ©arnaise sauce. Other than that, it's probably best known for its starring role in tarragon chicken.

The French refer to tarragon as "the king of herbs" and add it to stuffings, poultry preparations, fish dishes, and eggs. In addition to parsley, chives, and chervil, tarragon is one of the four heavy hitters in the herb blend called fines herbes. Unlike its heavier, more resinous counterpart, bouquet garni, which imparts its flavors slowly in stew-like preparations, fines herbes is much more delicate and is used to finish dishes.

Cooks use tarragon's refreshingly minty quality to liven up fruit salads, especially those with sweet fruits like mango.

Tomorrow we look at oregano.

Have a favorite use for tarragon? Let us know in the comments.

Another day, another herb. Read all about 'em: