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All about “Tarragon”

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Health profile

Active ingredients and properties

Herbs are usually not consumed in large quantities. Used as seasonings, they cannot therefore provide all the health benefits attributed to them. The fact that adding herbs to food on a regular and significant basis makes it possible to contribute, if only in a minimal way, to the antioxidant intake of the diet, even if they alone cannot meet the body’s antioxidant needs.

The majority of herbal studies have been carried out in animals using plant extracts. The extract is used in order to be able to isolate and concentrate the active ingredients, as well as to understand the mechanisms of action. In humans, it is difficult to assess the health effects of consuming herbs since the amounts consumed are generally low.


Antioxidants . Antioxidants are compounds that reduce the damage caused by free radicals in the body. These are very reactive molecules which are implicated in the appearance of cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and diseases linked to aging . Some researchers have evaluated the antioxidant capacity of herbs and all agree that fresh herbs demonstrate a significant antioxidant capacity, sometimes even higher than that of certain fruits and vegetables 1-3. This shows that indeed, adding herbs regularly in the diet contributes to the intake of antioxidants. More specifically, tarragon was ranked in fourth position for its antioxidant capacity among a dozen herbs, after sage, thyme and marjoram 2 .

Anxiety . Researchers have discovered the presence of two types of benzodiazepines in significant quantities in tarragon extracts (variety Artemisia dracunculus ) 4. Benzodiazepines are substances that act on the central nervous system. They are used mainly in the treatment of anxiety, but also insomnia. The study authors demonstrated for the first time that tarragon, grown in a sterile environment, can synthesize such substances which have the ability to bind in vitro to certain specific receptors in the human brain. The benzodiazepines produced naturally by the plant would have an activity as great as their synthetic equivalent. At the moment, it is not possible to think of even partially replacing the synthetic drug with tarragon extracts. Tarragon, as consumed, has no recognized anxiolytic effect and no human study has validated the results obtained in vitro.

Allergies . An in vitro study has shown that tarragon can inhibit the release of histamine. The release of this compound by certain cells in the body causes most of the symptoms of an allergy . This effect is mainly due to coumarin , a substance that exerts its effects in a complex way during the various stages of the development of an allergy. Tarragon also contains flavones, antioxidant compounds which also act as anti-allergens. The coumarin and flavones contained in tarragon give promising results. However, they will require further study to determine their importance in the prevention or treatment of allergies in humans.

Diabetes . Tarragon is traditionally used for the treatment of diabetes in certain countries, such as the United Kingdom 6 . A study in diabetic mice showed that tarragon improved some symptoms of diabetes (polydipsia or increased thirst, weight loss and overeating ), but had no impact on blood sugar (blood sugar) 7 . There do not appear to be any other scientific studies published on the subject since 1991.


Most important nutrients

See the meaning of the nutrient source classification symbols

Source Iron . A serving of tarragon is a source of iron for men, but not for women, because their respective iron needs are different. Each body cell contains iron. This mineral is essential for the transport of oxygen and the formation of red blood cells in the blood. It also plays a role in the production of new cells, hormones and neurotransmitters.

Source Manganese . Dehydrated tarragon is a source of manganese. Manganese acts as a cofactor for several enzymes that facilitate a dozen different metabolic processes. It also participates in the prevention of damage caused by free radicals.

What is a “portion” of tarragon worth?
Weight / volume Dehydrated tarragon, leaves, 15 ml / 2 g
Calories 5.0
Protein 0.4 g
Carbohydrates 0.9 g
Fat 0.1g
Dietary fiber 0.1g

Source : Health Canada. Canadian Nutrient File , 2005



Precautions

Tarragon contains significant amounts of vitamin K. This vitamin, necessary among other things for blood clotting, can be manufactured by the body in addition to being found in certain foods. People taking blood thinners , such as those marketed under the names Coumadin®, Warfilone® and Sintrom®, should eat a diet in which the vitamin K content is relatively stable from day to day. Herbs, including tarragon, contain vitamin K and should therefore be used as a seasoning only. People on anticoagulation therapy are advised to consult a dietitian-nutritionist or a doctor in order to know the food sources of vitamin K and to ensure a daily intake as stable as possible.

Tarragon over time

The term ”  tarragon  ” appeared in the middle of the XVI th  century. He followed a rather complex etymological course, from the Greek drakon, which means “dragon” or “serpent”, by allusion to the shape of its roots, through the Arabic tarkhum, the Latin tarchon, and finally the old French targon.

Under the name of ”  Mexican tarragon  “, we sometimes find a plant that has botanically nothing to do with tarragon. It is in fact a kind of marigold that Mexicans use in the same way in cooking and which has the advantage of being adapted to hot climates.

Under the sign of the moon
Tarragon is a close relative of sagebrush and absinthe, which are characterized, just like him, by the gray-green color of their leaves, giving the impression that they are bathed in light lunar. Hence, according to some, the Latin name of the genus, Artemisia, borrowed from the goddess who reigns over this star.

Native to central or western Asia, tarragon was known to the Greeks and Romans, who advocated its use to treat snake bites and toothache, while the Arabs used it to treat plague and cholera. It will be introduced in the rest of Europe around the XV th  century where monks cultivate the medicinal plants in their gardens. French chefs will discover its aromatic qualities and will therefore consider it the queen of herbs and will make it the star of some of their most famous sauces, including béarnaise, ravigote, gribiche and tartare.


Despite its great popularity with chefs, tarragon has been relatively little used in cooking compared to other herbs, which could be explained by the fact that it loses a good part of its flavor on drying and therefore cannot be offered only in season. In addition, it does not reproduce by seeds, but only vegetatively (by division of the roots) and its cultivation is delicate. So we often find in trade a neighboring species, easier to grow, but much less tasty, the tarragon said “from Russia”, which could contribute to tarnish its reputation. Moreover, until very recently, the plants that were sold in garden centers, at least in North America, were almost always from Russian tarragon, without being identified in this way.

We extract from the plant an essential oil used for many uses both in the food industry and in perfumery as well as in the manufacture of liqueurs, soaps and cosmetic products. In some countries, tarragon is still used for its medicinal properties.

Culinary uses

Choose well

Fresh tarragon is found at the market in season, and in large grocery stores throughout the year. Avoid dried tarragon, which tastes practically nothing.

Culinary dishes

  • In soups , especially leek and potato soup.
  • In omelets and other egg dishes.
  • In mushroom dishes , which it enhances the flavor.
  • In salads , especially the salad of white beans, tuna, sweet pepper and tomatoes, presented on a bed of greenery.
  • Chop it and mix it with thick yogurt or cottage cheese. Serve as a dip or on canapes.
  • It is used in the composition of many aromatic mixtures  : Provence herbs, herbs, bouquet garni; it is often added to mustard preparations.
  • In sauces that accompany meats, fish, seafood, grilled vegetables.
  • The chicken with tarragon is a classic of French cuisine: it lines the inside of the chicken butter mixed with tarragon and baked in the oven. It is served with a sauce made up of broth, a little crème fraîche and tarragon.
  • In season, you can buy or harvest good quantities of tarragon and macerate it in white wine vinegar , at the rate of one good branch per bottle. Bring the vinegar to the boil, let cool, then fill the bottles, stopper and keep away from light. Use this vinegar to season salads or deglaze a pan.
  • Small French pickles are generally flavored with tarragon, which gives them an exceptional fragrance.
  • In herbal tea, put 1 tsp. (5 ml) for 250 ml of water and leave to infuse for 5 to 10 minutes.

Conservation

Refrigerator: a few days, in a paper towel or damp cloth.


Freezer: chop the leaves and put them in an ice cube tray, covering them with water. Then enclose the ice cubes in a plastic bag.

Organic gardening

Only the Russian tarragon can be propagated by seeds, the French tarragon, whose flowers are sterile, having to be reproduced by division of the roots. The first year, it will therefore be necessary to obtain plants in a garden center. Then you can multiply it yourself by dividing it every three or four years.

He literally hates having his feet in the water. Choose a place in the garden that drips well, the soil is moderately rich and the  pH neutral. It can tolerate partial shade, but prefers full sun. Water only in case of drought, avoiding wetting the leaves.

It is a plant that needs a lot of space to fully flourish. Allow 30 cm to 45 cm between plants.

Late in the fall, cover the plants with a mulch of straw or dead leaves, which will be removed in the spring.

Ecology and environment

False fern azole is a tiny plant native to South America that is traded in garden centers where it is sold as an aquatic plant. However, for several years, it has been found outside its natural range, for example in ponds and lakes in British Columbia in Canada where, when conditions are favorable, it can multiply to the point of threatening the survival of native plants.


Given the sensitivity of aquatic environments to chemical herbicides, it is on the side of natural substances that we are looking for a solution that will eradicate this plant or, at least, limit its expansion. However, in 2004, researchers successfully tested an extract of tarragon leaves, which proved to be lethal for azole.

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