"...the tops and shoots like those of Rocket must never be excluded from sallets. 'Tis highly cordial and friendly to the head, heart, and liver."
--John Evelyn, Kalendarium Hortense (1666)

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(Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa)

Tarragon is native to the southern Russia/western Asia area of Siberia and as such was apparently unknown in the ancient world. Thanks to the trade routes, it eventually found its way to Europe and into Italian and French cuisine during medieval times, but to this day is still considered a relative newcomer to the herb garden.

Its name is a corruption of the French estragon, or "little dragon," in turn a corruption of the Arabic tarkhun. Perhaps its dragonish name derived from its reputation for curing the bites and stings of reptiles, venomous insects, and mad dogs, but it's a fact that its tortuous, coiled roots could be seen as serpentlike too.

In the 15th century, tarragon was imported to England, where it was grown only in the Royal Gardens. Not until the 16th century did it begin to find common use as a culinary herb--and not until the 19th century was it introduced to America.

Today it is most famous as one of the herbs used in the French classic fines herbes--and also as the defining herb in Sauce Béarnaise. French tarragon is far more delicate and flavorful, as you would expect, than its wild brother Russian tarragon (A. dracunculus without the sativa) .