Notes from Herb Heaven


This perennial herb is a must in the kitchen and a king among culinary herbs. It has a most distinctive scent and flavour. Tarragon originates in southern Europe and grows to a height of about 50 cm or more. The leaves are dark green, long, slender and pointed. The flowers are lime green and set in clusters. Pick out flower stems to encourage leaf growth.

Tarragon dies down in winter but bounces back once spring returns. Mulch the plant well in winter. It likes full sun, although it grows in partial shade as well. Although tarragon likes to grow best in cool and warm climates, it will survive in hot arid conditions if watered regularly. When preparing a spot for tarragon, add a good spade of well-decayed humus to the ground. Give tarragon a place in sandy, well-drained soil. It does not like to be waterlogged. Water regularly in summer but ease off in winter when it goes into its dormant stage. French tarragon (which is better in the kitchen that Russian) does not grow from seed. Divide the roots in spring or take cuttings. Fertilise once a year in early spring. Harvest the leaves carefully in summer.

The leaves can be wrapped in plastic and frozen for up to six months. You can also chop the leaves and put them in an ice-cube tray with a little water. Dry the leaves by hanging them in bunches upside down or lay them on a drying rack in a cool dry place. Store the dried leaves in airtight containers, although a lot of flavour will be lost in the drying process Tarragon is a favourite for flavouring oils and vinegars. Chopped fresh tarragon goes well with poultry, fish, vegetables (especially green beans), mayonnaise, sauces and salad dressings.

Try it with cottage cheese.


Tarragon Cream Sauce for Fish


75 g butter
125 ml thick/heavy cream
1 Tbs or more chopped tarragon
1 Tbs lemon juice
salt and pepper

Place butter in a small pan over low heat
When butter is melted, stir in the cream
Add tarragon, lemon juice, salt and pepper
Heat gently for two to three minutes
(Serves 4)

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