Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Artemisia-2014 Herb of the Year

Artemisias belong to the Asteraceae, a family of plants which also includes asters and daisies; however, Artemisia flowers, though typical, are usually quite small. There are over 300 species in the genus, distinguished by the silkiness and divisions of their leaves and the arrangements of their flowers. With the exception of several species in tropical environs, the genus originated in and mostly belongs to the drier climes of the Northern Hemisphere. 
Not all artimisias are herbal, but those that are have many uses:
-A. absinthium (wormwood) is a flavoring ingredient in absinthe liqueur. 
-Many Artemisias are useful in dried flower arrangements and wreaths, potpourri, and moth and mosquito repellents. To dry easily and rapidly, the branches or stems should be fanned out, not bunched, and hung out of strong sunlight in a dry space with good air circulation. Culinary:
-A. dracunculus (French tarragon) is a key component of Sauce Béarnaise and French salad dressing. The leaves of this species are used to flavor poultry dishes and to make tarragon vinegar. It is important to use a plant grown from a division or cutting rather than from seed.
-Oils of Artemisia are used in cosmetics and aromatherapy.
-Medicinal: Some species have proven to be antimalarial (A. annua), and antifungal (A. absinthium).

This month the herb being explored by the NEWHSA is tarragon.

A. dracunculus (tarragon): Dracunculus means “little dragon.” The Arabic name translates as dragonwort. French tarragon (sometimes designated as the cultivar ‘Sativa’ and preferred for culinary use) is seed sterile and must be grown from stem tip cuttings, root cuttings, or divisions. Tip cuttings are less likely to spread diseases and insects. Tarragon can withstand drought and excessive heat (but not high humidity or poor air circulation). It can also be susceptible to rust and nematodes. 


I discovered this recipe for mandarin orange salad many years ago for a salad that is similar to one I enjoyed at the Magic Pan, a trendy restaurant chain serving crepes in the seventies.


1 bunch Romaine lettuce
1 c. mandarin oranges
3/4 c. toasted almonds
1/2 c. sliced green onions

Tarragon Vinaigrette

2/3 c. oil
1/3 c. tarragon vinegar
1 t. sugar
1/2 t. tarragon leaves
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. chervil (opt.)

Combine all ingredients in a shaker.  Refrigerate at least 1 hour.  Shake well before serving.

This Chicken and Wild Rice Salad recipe from Lunds in Minneapolis makes a nice luncheon entree.


1 c. wild rice
1 t. chicken bouillon
1/3 c. green onions, finely sliced
8 oz. can sliced water chestnuts
1/2 chicken, cooked and deboned (3 c.)
2/3 c. mayonnaise
1/3 c. milk
1/4 t. tarragon
2 T. lemon juice
1/2 lb. seedless green grapes, halved (1 c.)
1 c. slated cashews

Rinse wild rice and drain.  In a heavy saucepan, bring wild rice, 4 c. water, and bouillon to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered 45-55 minutes, until kernels open and are tender, but not mushy.  Drain.  Cool.  (Makes 3-4 cups.)
Mix wild rice with green onions, water chestnuts, and chicken chunks.  Mix together mayonnaise, milk, tarragon, and lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.  Stir into wild rice mixture.  Refrigerate, covered, 2-3 hours.  Fold in grapes and cashews.  Garnish with clusters of grapes.

My husband enjoys split pea soup,  puchasing Campbell's condensed split pea soup, until I  found a homemade version we both enjoy in the Silver Palate New Basics Cookbook.  I often makes a big batch using leftovers after serving a big spiral cut ham, freezing plenty of soup to enjoy on cold winter evenings.


1 lb. dried green split peas
5 c. chicken stock or canned broth
5 c. water (or less, if thicker soup desired)
1 meaty ham bone
2 ribs celery, leaves included, diced
3 T. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 t. crumbled dried tarragon
(OR 1 1/2 t. fresh tarragon, chopped)
4 T. unsalted butter
1 c. diced peeled carrots
1 c. diced onion
1 leek, white part only, rinsed and sliced
1 c. slivered fresh spinach leaves
2 T. dry sherry
1/2 t. freshly ground pepper

Rinse the split peas in a strainer, and combine them with the stock and water in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil.  Add the ham bone, celery, 1 T. of the parsley, and the tarragon.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes.  Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add the carrots, onion, and leek.  Cook 10 minutes until the vegetables are wilted.  Add them to the soup pot, along with the spinach.  Simmer, partially covered, 30 minutes.  Remove the soup from the heat.  Remove the ham bone, and shred the meat from the bone, removing any excess fat.  Return the meat to the soup along with some additional chunks of leftover ham.  Add the sherry, pepper, and remaining 2 T. parsley.  Taste for seasoning, adding salt, pepper, and tarragon, if desired.  Heat through and serve immediately.

One of my husband's colleagues who worked at the Dean Foods Vegetable Co. plant in Watsonville, California sent this recipe to us from the Sunset Quick Cuisine cookbook.  It has become a family favorite, with our boys preferring sautéed chunks of chicken replacing the seafood in their servings when they were younger.  We usually serve this dish this over linguine.


2 T. butter
1 lb. sea scallops, rinsed and cut in 1/2
1/2 lb. large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/3 c. finely chopped shallots
3/4 c. tarragon vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
1/2 c. chicken broth
1/4 t. dry tarragon (or 1 t. fresh chopped)
1 T. Dijon mustard
1/2 c.  whipping cream
  white pepper
  fresh tarragon sprigs (opt. For garnish)

In a wide frying pan, melt butter over medium-high heat.  Add scallops and shrimp; cook, stirring 3-4 minutes, just until seafood is opaque in thickest part when cut.  With a slotted spoon, transfer seafood to a bowl and set aside.  Reserve drippings in pan.  Add shallots, vinegar, broth, and dry tarragon to pan.  Boil, uncovered, over high heat until liquid is reduced to 1/2 cup.  Pour any accumulated juices from seafood into pan along with mustard and cream.  Bring again to a boil and cook until sauce is reduced to about 3/4 cup.  Stir in seafood.  Season with salt and white pepper.  Garnish each serving with fresh tarragon, if desired.  Makes 4 servings.


2 T. olive oil
1/2 c. finely chopped yellow onion
2 lb. can Italian plum tomatoes
2 t. dried tarragon
salt, to taste
pepper, freshly ground, to taste
1 c. heavy cream
2 T. salt
1 lb. spaghetti
pinch cayenne pepper
1 1/2 c. lobster meat (meat of 3-4 lb. lobster)
fresh parsley, basil, or tarragon sprigs
(for garnish)

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan.  Add the onion.  Reduce the heat and cook, covered, 25 minutes until tender.  Chop and drain the tomatoes and add them to the onions.  Add the tarragon, season to taste with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove the mixture from the heat and cool slightly.  Puree in a food processor.   Return the puree to the saucepan and stir in the heavy cream.  Set over medium heat, simmering and stirring often for 15 minutes until slightly reduced.  Stir in cayenne and lobster meat, simmering 3-5 minutes until lobster is just heated through.  Arrange spaghetti, cooked according to directions on the package, on warmed serving plates.  Spoon sauce evenly over pasta and garnish with sprigs of fresh herbs.

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