Chervil: A Bit of Botany
a little botanical information about chervil

Anthriscus cerefolium is a biennial of the Apiaceae that is not frost tender. It is in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen from Jun to July. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects. The plant is self-fertile. Chervil is closely related to parsley. It grows to a height of 20 inches with a spread off about 8 inches. It has flat, light green and lacy leaves, which have a slightly aniseed-like aroma and turn reddish brown as the plant matures. It blooms in mid-summer, producing flat umbellifers of tiny white flowers.

common names & nomenclature
Old English cerfelle "chervil," from Latin chaerephyllum, from Greek khairephyllon; phyllon means "leaf" and khairein means "to rejoice".

Also known as:
chervil, myrrhis, garden chervil, french parsley, gourmet's parsley, chervel, sweet cicely

Chervil, the French parsley
Chervil: Where in the World
habitat and range for chervil

Chervil is native to Southern Europe and the Caucasus but was spread by the Romans through most of Europe, where it is now naturalized.

Chervil: Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting chervil

Chervil grows in woodland garden sunny edges; dappled shade; shady edges; hedgerows and cultivated beds. Plants dislike hot dry summers, it is best to give summer crops a cool shady location; however winter crops require a sunny location.

Chervil prefers a well-drained moisture retentive soil.

Sow chervil seeds directly in the garden soil outdoors, as transplanting can be difficult due to the long taproot. Chervil bolts quickly (goes to flower and seed), so it may be necessary to re-seed several times during the growing season. For continuous harvesting, sow in succession from February to October. The seed usually germinates in 2 - 3 weeks.

Harvest leaves throughout the growing season, regular harvesting also helps to prevent bolting.

Dry the leaves well and cut into smaller pieces, store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Chervil: The Rest of the Story
chervil history, folklore, literature & more

Chervil is a hardy annual herb that produces mounds of feathery leaves that look very similar to parsley or carrot tops. Although these plants share the same botanical family, chervil has a far bolder aroma and flavor than its milder counterparts. In fact, chervil, sometimes referred to as the gourmet's parsley, has a fragrance and taste faintly reminiscent of anise or licorice. However, these attributes are only preserved if the herb is harvested while the leaves are still young and green, otherwise they turn bronze in color and lose potency. Fortunately, dried chervil keeps well if stored in a cool, dark place away from drafts. Another way to capture the peak flavor of chervil is to preserve the fresh leaves in white vinegar. Of course, if you’re a fan of the “salad in a bag” available in most supermarkets, the subtle flavor of chervil is likely in the mix.

The widespread popularity of this native Eastern European herb is largely due to the ancient Romans introducing it to other regions, most notably France. Today, chervil is a common wayside simple found along the roadside and growing wild in the field throughout Europe.

It has also become a staple in French cuisine. In fact, chervil has a place in the classic fine herbes blend, together with tarragon, chives, lemon balm, parsley and marjoram. However, chervil is the star of Bearnaise sauce. Pluches de cerfeuille, which simply means sprigs of chervil leaves, flavors many sauces and dressings, as well as meat, poultry, fish, egg and cheese dishes.

At the time of the Roman Empire, chervil was known as “myrrhis” since the volatile oil in the fresh leaves smelled quite a bit like the myrrh resin presented to the infant Jesus by the Three Wise Men. This association lend to the belief that chervil symbolized the renewal of life. As such, a soup featuring the herb is traditionally served in observance of Easter in some parts of Europe.