The name tarragon is derived from the French word esdragon meaning 'little dragon' (probably in reference to the plant's serpentine root system, which may strangle a plant if it is not divided). The Roman scholar Pliny refers to its use for preventing fatigue. Thomas Jefferson was said to have been an early distributor of tarragon in America.
This glabrous green shrub has a branched root system with runners that produce erect, bushy, branched stems. The lanceolate to linear leaves are 1 to 4 inches long with smooth or entire edges. The small yellow or whitish green flowers are drooping and globe shaped in dense terminal panicles. The flowers rarely open fully and are usually sterile. The fruit is an achene.
Tarragon is used to flavor vinegars, herbal butter, shellfish, pork, beef, poultry, leeks, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, onions, asparagus, mushrooms, broccoli, peas, and rice. Use the fresh leaves in salads, tartar sauce, and French dressing.