Tarragon is a leafy green herb widely used in French cuisine. Its distinctive yet subtle herbal flavor is particularly well suited to use with fish and chicken. The appeal pf tarragon tends to come from its subtle side, so a gentle hand yields more successful results and helps its unique flavor from overwhelming all other flavors in a dish. People tend to either love it or hate it, so consider your audience when adding it to dishes.
When and Where to Buy Tarragon
Tarragon is a spring and summer herb. It will show up in winter in warmer climates and at the end of winter in temperate climates or from growers using greenhouses. Otherwise, fresh tarragon is usually only available in spring and into summer in cooler areas. Like many green herbs, heat will cause tarragon to bolt and turn bitter, so while it may still fill the herb garden with its fragrance later in the summer, taste it before using it if they weather's been warm.
Tarragon isn't as common as parsley or cilantro, so you may need to hunt it down at specialty stores or farmers markets or even grow it yourself.
How to Use Tarragon
Tarragon is one of the herbs used to make fines herbes (the others are parsley, chervil, and chives), a delicate herb blend used extensively in French cooking.
Tarragon is also delicious all on its own in salad dressings (try this creamy version) and in sauces, especially cream or butter sauces that can harness its flavor without overwhelming it.
How to Store Tarragon
As with all fresh, leafy herbs, tarragon doesn't store great, but there are a few options. If you just need it to last a day or two, store tarragon loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in the fridge. For longer storage, lay the stems on layers of paper towels, roll them up, and store those loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in the fridge, much like lettuce and other greens.
This second method keeps the leaves dry, and less likely to rot, but not dried out.
What If I Can't Find Tarragon?
If you want to make a recipe that calls for tarragon but can't find ant, you're in a tricky spot. On the one hand, nothing else will really taste like tarragon; on the other hand, either parsley or chervil (or, even better, a combination of the two) can add that fresh-green-herb note in a recipe when tarragon is not to be found.