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Helpful Herbs: Tarragon

A tasty herb to add to a kitchen garden with some unexpected health benefits, tarragon is certainly something to consider when putting together your garden. Tarragon is closely related to sunflowers and this can be seen in its happy yellow flowers when left to blossom.

Most often purchased as seedlings, tarragon can be grown from cuttings as well. There are a few varieties of tarragon, the French one being best for cooking. An easy to maintain plant, tarragon prefers partial sun, disliking extreme heat. It can grow in most soil conditions but does not like to be too wet. A perennial, tarragon will hibernate in winter and grow back quickly in spring.

Tarragon can be grown in a container garden but because it likes sun and also cooler temperatures, it is very picky about its conditions in a pot. Tarragon has a dense root structure and will need a large pot even for a smaller plant. The leaves can be harvested fresh, or dired for later use.

Commonly paired with meats such as chicken, fish, and rabbit, tarragon has a bittersweet, anise-like flavor and is used minimally to prevent overpowering the other flavors in a dish. In addition to adding seasoning to main dishes, tarragon is a wonderful way to add tang to vinegars and mustards. It is also gives an unique taste to cheese or egg dishes and can be used in a butter to baste meat dishes.

The health benefits of tarragon are often overlooked, but they are innumerable. Filled with antioxidants, studies have shown that ingestion of tarragon helps to produce muscle mass and aid weight control. A mild sedative, tarragon tea before bed will help to ensure a good night’s rest. Regularly used as a digestive tonic, when ingested the herb eases stomach pain and cramping. A compress of tarragon, or the leafs chewed raw, numbs the mouth and eases tooth and gum pain.

An ingredient in many traditional ethic dishes and native to Russia, tarragon was only introduced to the the United States during the 1800s. Until recently it was more commonly used for its medicinal benefits than its culinary ones, and was first used as a breath freshener and sleep aid by the Mongols during the 10th Century. As it became more prevalent in Europe, tarragon was considered a digestive aid throughout Europe during the Reformation era. The abilities of tarragon to soothe mouth pains were quickly discovered, and it was a staple of the earliest dentistry.

A helpful herb with some tasty benefits as well as healing ones, tarragon is a great addition to any garden. As a perennial it will keep easily outdoors and provide your kitchen and home with plenty of rewards.


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