Artemisia dracunculus L.
Family : Compositae
Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus)
is a vigorous perennial plant native to Southern Russia and Asia.
It is distributed in the Western Himalayas at altitudes of 4200-4800m.
This sweet anise-scented herb belongs to the aster family and is
adaptable to various growing conditions. It is widely cultivated
in Southern Europe and to some extent in Uttar Pradesh for its volatile
oil, known commercially as estragon oil, and is used as a flavouring
and scenting agent.
Tarragon gets its name from the
French word “estragon” and the Spanish “taragona”,
which are both derived from the Greek word for dragon. The basis
for this is that it was used to treat snake bites, or that the roots
of the plant are coiled and look like snakes.
The cultivated plants rarely form
seed, but the plant is easily propagated by root or crown divisions.
The root divisions should be set early in spring in rows 3 feet
apart and at intervals of about 1 foot in the row. The large crown
that is soon formed should be taken up and subdivided about every
3 or 4 years.
After the plants become established,
the leaves and tender tops can be harvested throughout the growing
season and used fresh or may be dried for winter. The leafy top
growth can be cut back several times during the season. The leaves
and tops should be dried rapidly away from light; otherwise they
will turn dark. Store the dry leaves in sealed glass jars, to prevent
loss of the essential oil.
Tarragon contains 0.2 - 1.5% volatile
oil, containing mainly methyl chavicol or estragole and anethole.
Ocimene, phellandrene and p-methoxycinnamaldehyde are the other
components in tarragon. The anethole gives it an anise or licorice-like
Aroma and flavour
Tarragon is generally used in high
end speciality products in the food industry such as tarragon flavoured
vinegars, sauces and salad dressings. The aromatic leaves form the
leading flavour in green salads, salad dressings, salad vinegars,
fish sauces, tartare sauce, and some egg dishes.
Medicinal and other use
Tarragon or estragon oil is used
primarily in the perfume industry. The leaves are used as a aprient,
stomachic, stimulant and febrifuge.