CHERVIL (Anthriscus cerefolium)
Chervil is in the same family as carrots and is similar to parsley. There are two main varieties, one with flat and one with curly leaves.
It has a taste a little like anise and brings out the flavour of other herbs when cooked together.
Chervil was once known as myrris because of its resemblance to myrrh. It has been used in religious ceremonies and also has many medicinal qualities.
In roman times chervil was used as a spring tonic but is not widely used as a medicinal herb these days. It is mostly used in the kitchen and is one of the main herbs in French cuisine as part of the fines herbes mixture. The other herbs – chives, tarragon and parsley complement each other and chervil brings out the taste of all of them.
Chervil can be added to many dishes and shouldn’t be ignored when the recipe says; chervil (optional). Add some to your recipes and get lots of brownie points for a wonderful tasting meal.
Chervil is native to Middle Eastern countries but can be grown easily in many moderate climates.
Medicinal uses for Chervil
Chervil has been used extensively in folk medicine throughout the ages. It was once said that eating a whole plant cured hiccups. The herb is warm and soothing and is often used as a digestive aid.
A cold infusion of chervil tea is a soothing eyewash. Young tender leaves added to salads not only improve the flavour of your meal but are also believed to act as a mild tonic.
Chervil can run to seed very quickly, especially in hot sun, and should be positioned in a part shady spot in your garden. Chervil doesn’t transplant well and should be started from seed in situ.
Dig over the soil in early spring, or as soon as the ground is workable. Make sure the area is well-drained and gets some shade during the day. Remove any perennial weeds and non-organic debris and rake the soil to a fine consistency.
Sow the seed in drills about one inch (2-3cm) deep and cover gently with soil or compost. Water well. Check on the growing recommendations on your seed packet, but generally the first sowing of chervil can be made in mid-Spring.
As the plant is notorious for bolting (running to seed), sow a short line of seed every couple of weeks through until midsummer and then another later sowing in late summer for autumn use. In this way, fresh chervil will be available throughout the summer and autumn months.
Keep the young seedlings free from weeds and water in dry weather. Chervil won’t transplant easily but will need thinning. To avoid having to throw away too many plants, sow seed as sparsely as possible at each sowing. If you can’t get to a garden centre, Amazon is probably a reasonable place to start looking for seeds. I found these on Amazon (UK)
Mr Fothergill’s 10094 Herb Seeds, Chervil Simple
A half hardy annual, can be grown in pots
A delicate, refined flavour
Also called Gourmet parsley
30 cm growing height
Thin plants when they are about 2 inches (5cm) tall and when the soil is damp. Water the area first if necessary. Leave the strongest plants to grow and pull out the weaker ones. Allow about 3 inches (7-8cm) of growing space between them. Thin again, to about 12 inches (30cm) apart a few weeks later, again removing the weaker plants.
As long as the soil isn’t allowed to dry out and chervil doesn’t get too much direct hot midday sun, the plants will need little looking after. The hardest thing to control with chervil is running to seed.
Avoid direct sunlight and water regularly to alleviate the problem as much as possible. Pick leaves regularly and cut off flowering stems before they bloom to encourage more foliage.
As chervil likes part shade, it’s ideal for growing indoors in pots on a windowsill. Use well-drained pots of new compost and sow a few seeds in each pot. Keep the compost damp. Remove the weaker seedlings when the plants are about 2 inches (5cm) tall and leave the strongest plant to grow.
Make sure the pots don’t dry out and protect from direct sun through glass. A north facing windowsill is probably the ideal spot in your home for chervil.
Here’s to Herbs!
P.S. P.S. I extracted this text from 20 Occasional Herbs – a handy download if you’re thinking about growing some herbs this year.
20 Occasional Herbs
A potted history of twenty occasional herbs, step by step growing instructions, storing ideas and even medicinal uses.
Aloe vera … Angelica … Blackberry … Borage … Burdock … Caraway … Chamomile … Chervil … Comfrey … Daisy … Dandelion … Dog Rose … Echinacea … Feverfew … Savory … Sorrel … Tarragon … violet … Watercress … Yarrow.
’20 Occasional Herbs’ is packed full of everything you need to know about how to grow herbs for occasional or everyday use. A must-have! Choose from your favourite online bookstore: