Growing Chervil

Chervil is an herb that most of us aren’t very familiar with. For the unknowing eye, it looks like parsley.

However, looks are deceiving because this shy little herb is a strapping medicinal powerhouse!

Curious to find out more about this delicate looking plant?

What is chervil?

Family:  Apiaceae (carrot family)

Genus:  Anthriscus

Species:  cerefolium 

Common names: Chinese parsley, cilantro (Spanish)

Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) is an annual/biennial aromatic herb cultivated mainly in Southeastern Europe.

However, gardeners around the world are trying their hand at cultivating it.

It’s one of the main staples of herbs used in French cuisine. For thousands of years, herbalists have used Chervil in treating numerous ailments.

Chervil’s humble beginnings date as far back as 300 B.C. in Eastern Europe. It became prevalent among the Romans in cooking.

Chervil medicinal uses also played a significant role in cleansing the blood of the Romans.

Romans coveted this herb so much that they introduced it to other parts of the world. 

Wild Chervil

There’s some confusion about chervil known commonly as “cow parsley.” This is wild chervil. Garden chervil and wild chervil are two completely different species. Be very careful not to use cuttings from wild chervil.

Anthriscus sylvestris (wild chervil) 

Common names: cow parsley

Habitat: roadsides, fields, undisturbed areas

Wild chervil is considered an invasive species and is found around the world growing in inhospitable habitats.

Many states have declared this plant as a noxious weed because of its ability to choke off crops and is difficult to eradicate. 

Warning: research has determined wild chervil to be toxic to animals.

What Is Chervil Used For?

French chefs use chervil to add a distinctive flavor to their dishes. Chervil is almost always used in French cooking, especially in dishes that feature fish or eggs.

Unfortunately, the use of chervil in American cooking hasn’t entirely caught on yet.

What does chervil taste like? It isn’t overpowering as some herbs are. In fact, it’s mild.

Palates of many detect hints of caraway, anise, tarragon, mint, and parsley. If you were to inhale the aroma of chervil, you would smell myrrh (spice of the Bible.)

Growing Chervil In The U.S.

Chervil tends to be a persnickety herb to grow because it doesn’t do well in warm climates.

It also doesn’t tolerate transplanting because of its long taproot, so seeding it in place is required.

If you are looking to establish a kitchen herb garden near a sunny window, chervil is ideal to include. 

Soil: well-drained

pH: 6.1-7.5

Water: medium

Pruning: pinch leaves as necessary to prevent bolting

If you want to collect seeds from your chervil, you’ll need to allow it to flower. Once chervil has flowered, you can sow the seeds every few weeks.

A word of caution, though, by allowing your plant to blossom, you’ll contend with bolting and bitter-tasting leaves. 

On the other hand, if you’re not planning to collect seeds, you can prevent bolting by pinching the leaves to avoid flowering.

Where to Buy Chervil Plants

Locating chervil is in seed form, or starter plants locally are challenging, to say the least! You can find seeds or starter plants online from hobby gardeners.

For those of you who love to cook but don’t have access to fresh chervil, don’t lose hope! You can substitute other herbs such as parsley, fennel, tarragon, dill weed, chives, or cicely.

Growing chervil can prove to be a fun herb to take on in your gardening efforts. If you are looking for something different to grow and use in your cooking, go for it!

Happy “gardening!”

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