Anthriscus cerefolium (Herb of Joy or Gourmet Parsely)
What is Chervil?
Chervil is most known for being one of the four herbs included in the French ‘fines herbes’ blend that also includes tarragon, chives, and parsley. ‘Fines herbes’ is used fresh to flavor poached fish, shellfish, chicken and omelets.
Since the seeds are not often sold in local garden centers, it is a lesser known herb that is not often grown in the home garden.
Many people grow chervil to be used in desserts and drinks, but it is equally good in savory dishes. The flavor is often described as a combination of parsley and licorice.
Chervil is an annual herb that is best known for being a “sweet” herb. It is an attractive herb that has lacy ‘fern-like’ leaves. This herb is used as a culinary, medical and in cosmetic products.
Ideal Location for Growing Chervil
Chervil is one of the few herbs that grows best in shady conditions with moist soil. This herb can be grown indoors in a container or window box specifically designed for herbs,
Cultivation and Planting Information
Chervil herb can tolerate some frost, but grows best in the cool season right after frost has passed. Before you plant chervil, soak the seeds in water overnight. This helps the seeds germinate faster.
Pick a shaded spot to plant the chervil seeds. The plant goes to seed too quickly in direct sun, so the seeds must be planted in a cool and shaded area.
Plant them at least 1/8 in deep in the soil in the early spring while the ground is still cool. The soil should have been tilled well in early spring in order to prepare the ground for planting. Set the seeds at least 8 to 10 in apart. Plants should be kept moist. The chervil should be thinned once they are 2 inches tall.
Chervil has a long taproot, so plant the seeds in the same location where you intend to grow them as they do not transplant well. In cool climates, you can plan several sowing to ensure a steady supply of young leaves.
In the garden, chervil is known for repelling slugs and is used as a companion plant to radishes.
Varieties of Chervil
Similar to parsley, there are both flat and curly leaf varieties of chervil. Both are annuals that bloom in the summer with white flowers. Growing from 12-24 inches tall and about half as wide, chervil is a pretty herb for the middle of the garden.
Winter Chervil is a hardier annual which is more tolerant of colder temperatures and slower to bolt in the summer.
Where to Buy Chervil Seeds and Plants
Chervil seeds can occasionally be found at specialty garden centers in late winter or early spring. Urban farmer sells flat leaf chervil seeds which is a winter variety. Additional varieties can be purchased at online retailers such as Burpee Gardening.
Chervil plants are ready for harvesting early at about 8-10 weeks after sowing. They can be picked as needed once the plants are 2-3 in tall. Harvest the leaves from the outside first as new growth starts in the center. This allows the plant to replenish itself in between harvests.
As the plant matures, the leaves may turn a darker bronze color. In this case the leaves will start to become bitter, so use the younger greener leaves instead.
Chervil reseeds itself quickly so pick flowers off to prolong the harvesting season. Chervil is also one of those herbs that benefit from a frequent harvest, so make sure to keep trimming or using your herbs.
Chervil leaves will keep for about a week in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator. You can also freeze the leaves in airtight containers.
Another option is to mince the leaves and store them with oil in small Tupperware containers. This is a good option when you plan to use the herbs in soups and stews.
For longer storage, finely chop the chervil and mix with a little water, and then freeze in ice cube trays.
Cooking with Chervil
All parts of the chervil plants are used in cooking: the leaves, flowers, stems, seeds, and oils. However, it is the leaves that are most often called for in recipes.
Chervil is used in soups, salads, butter sauces, drinks, and desserts. It is particularly popular in European cuisines. It has a delicate flavor and will not overpower dishes. This herb loses its flavor if cooked at too high a temperature, so be sure to add it toward the end of the cooking time.
Chervil is most well known in French cuisine and is used in the classic Béarnaise sauce. Chervil butter makes a nice spread for biscuits and breads. It can also be added to eggs, used to flavor green beans, carrots, and potatoes.
Chervil Uses in Herbal Medicine and Health Benefits
Chervil has been used in the past as a diuretic, expectorant, digestive aid and skin freshener. It was also thought to relieve symptoms of eczema, gout, kidney stones, and pleurisy. It is most widely known as a remedy for high blood pressure today.
Make a tea, keeping a tight cover on the cup or pot to trap the volatile oils. The leaves can also be dried and pulverized into a powder to be used in Capsule form. This tea can also be used as an eye wash by saturating a cotton ball and placing it over the closed eye for 10 minutes. The oils of chervil are also used in the cosmetic industry.
Chervil is a delicate herb that can be used as a milder alternative to parsley. It is very easy to grow from seed. Chervil is an excellent choice when starting an indoor herb garden. It grows quickly and requires less sun than most herbs, making it perfect for a windowsill herb garden.