It’s funny how you can start with a seemingly easy Instagram recipe, and end up with an entire blog post. I had wanted to photograph a compote of berries with a creamy, rich topping, which is a very popular, light dessert after most hot weather suppers. As opposed to mint, I thought I would try adding chopped tarragon to the topping, for variety.
But then my curiosity about tarragon took over, and my simple post started me down a botanical path of research. I love knowing the origins of plants, and how they got their names. Tarragon does not disappoint.
There are three different types of tarragon available for cooking, but all of them come from the Compositae family of plants. Compositae are so named because they have flowers that are made from many, tinier flowers, hence the name. This family includes sunflowers, dandelions, chrysanthemums, and daisies. So, If you imagine the center of all of these flowers, none have the familiar pistil-and-stamen construction of a flower that we see in lilies or hibiscus. The center disk of compositae are tiny flowers, and eventually in some, seeds.
French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) and Russian tarragon (A. dracunculoides L) are quite similar, although the Russian variety is considered less flavorful.
Spanish tarragon, or Mexican tarragon are also known as Mexican mint marigold and are listed under the scientific name of Tagetes lucida. I have often gotten the question “Well, is it mint or is it a marigold? The answer is that Mexican mint marigold is a type of marigold related to tarragon through the Compositae family. It’s not a mint, although it grows in the same condition, and it green in color (Money isn’t mint either, but we call it that.) You can use French, Russian and Mexican tarragon interchangeably. Plant the variety that does best in your growing conditions.
The Spanish name for tarragon is estragón, which is somehow related to the word for “dragon.” Because this herb has been used since Medieval times, it is possible that the plant was somehow associated with dealing with the mythical beasts. There are plenty of healing qualities attributed to tarragon, so possibly the dragon connection lays within its medicinal properties.
I had long believed that tarragon had gotten its name from the southern Spanish port city of Tarragon, around which the plant tarragon grows wild. I will have to continue my etymological research into the name of tarragon, as it seems strange that the name of the city, and the plant appear unrelated.
I’ve already enjoyed two dishes of this berry compote, which took less time to prepare than my research into the history of tarragon. But my research isn’t finished. In the meantime, maybe I’ll grab that third dish of berries…Print
Summer Berry Compote with Honey Lemon Yogurt & Tarragon
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Total Time: 5 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings
- Category: Sweets
- Method: No Cooking Required
- Cuisine: USA
1 cup fresh blueberries (approx 150 gr)
1 cup fresh strawberries (approx 150 gr)
1 cup fresh raspberries (approx 150 gr)
1 cup fresh blackberries (approx 150 gr)
1 cup whole milk yogurt (or your favorite yogurt substitute – 245 gr)
2 tbsp. honey (or your favorite sweetener, I use 1 pk of stevia – 42 gr)
1 tbsp. chopped tarragon (5 gr)
1 tsp. grated lemon zest (2 gr)
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice (5 ml)
Extra chopped tarragon and lemon zest for garnish
Rinse all of the berries and drain well. Pat to dry completely, and then place in a large bowl, tossing to combine well.
Mix together the yogurt, honey or sweetener, chopped tarragon, lemon juice and lemon zest. Whip with a spoon until smooth
Divide the berries into 4 separate dishes, top with the yogurt mixture. Top with extra chopped tarragon and lemon zest to garnish. Serve immediately