Just another daisy herb

French tarragon, or true tarragon, is a small perennial indigenous to the Mediterranean; it is a member of the daisy family. Its history is not as long as that of many other herbs, and it was not really known in Europe until around the sixteenth century. Its Latin name means “dragon,” as does its Arabic name, tarkhum; estragon, its French name, means “little dragon.” Most sources attribute the origin of the name to a belief that tarragon was an antidote to the venom of poisonous serpents. The other most common variety of the herb is Russian tarragon, which is native to Siberia. It is a taller, straighter plant (French tarragon tends to sprawl), but its leaves have little of the wonderful flavor of true tarragon. Real tarragon has a licorice-like fragrance (it contains the same volatile oil as anise) and a spicy, peppery, green taste. The pots of tarragon sold at the garden market are often Russian tarragon, since French tarragon is more difficult to cultivate and therefore more costly; be sure to check the provenance. Good-quality dried tarragon has the same peppery anise-like flavor, with a slightly sweeter note.