Photo by: Lord-Williams
L. Artemisia dracunculus, Ar. tarkum, tarkhun, Fr. dragone, estragon, armoise petit-dragon, Eng. tarragon. It is thought that tarragon originated in Siberia but it is a mystery as to who or when it was introduced to Europe. Some claim the Arabs brought it to France in the 15th C but obviously it was in Spain by the 13th Century.
The two most common types are French tarragon, which is aromatic and sweet with a hint of anis, licorice and fennel flavors, and Russian tarragon, which is somewhat bitter and not fragrant. This plant, Dracunculus, is derived from L draco (dragon). Although not common in England until the 16th C. for its unfavorably damp climate, in other European countries, it was popular in the Middle Ages because it scared away beasts.
The Spanish, French and English names for this herb are the result of a long cycle from the Gr drákoon, to Ar tarkhun, to L tragonia or tarchon. The “dragon” affect must have failed at times as the herb was recommended for curing bites and stings. Perhaps that is why it is known as mugwort as well for those who had been mugged.
Traditionally, tarragon leaves are used fresh with salads, sauces (especially those calling for lemon or vinegar), meat, fish, stews and vegetables. Persians used it to increase the appetite and the root was applied to toothaches. From the 16th to the beginning of the 20th C, English from East Anglia wore a sprig in a shoe to prevent them for tiring when traveling. [Bolens:1990:324; Bremness. 1990:52; and ES: Katzer. “Tarragon. May 7, 03]
ASPARAGUS ADAPTED FROM SENT SOVÍ CXVIII QUE PARLA CON SA DEUEN APERELLAR ESPÀRECHS AB SALSA p 142
3 tbsp flour
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
For the sauce
1 c sherry
1 tsp chopped tarragon
2 c water used to parboil the asparagus
½ tbsp butter
½ tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp thickener such as flour or breadcrumbs
¾ c sliced Parmesan cheese
¼ c toasted pine kernels
1 tsp chopped tarragon
Wash asparagus, snap off the white stems and trim the base of each stalk. Break the stalks in half. Parboil stems in boiling salt water one minute. Add tips and boil one more minute. Remove from pot and pat dry.
For the sauce:
Pour the sherry into small pan. Add tarragon and 2 c and let boil until reduced to 1 c liquid. Then add butter and olive oil. In another pan mix the thickner with a small amount of liquid stirring constantly. Add more water until all the flour is dissolved and pour it into the rest of the mixture. Boil until creamy. Cover and set aside.
Toss asparagus lightly in flour. Add butter and oil to a frying pan over moderately high he. When hot, add asparagus. Turn once. Put the asparagus on an ovenproof platter. Sprinkle with slices of cheese and pine nuts.
Grill the dish until the cheese melts. Srinkle with chopped tarragon and serve.