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Chervil is known as French parsley and sometimes referred to as “gourmet parsley” because of its sophisticated and unique sweet peppery flavor. It’s an annual and popular leafy herb that is one of the four traditional fine herbs in French cuisine. If you would like to try out this flavorful herb in your culinary creations, remember that fresh is best when it comes to chervil.
So why not grow this versatile herb in your own backyard? This article explores how to grow and care for chervil so that you can have your homegrown supply with minimum effort. Let’s get started.
Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) is a delicate, annual herb that belongs to the Apiaceae family, which also includes parsley, dill, and fennel. It’s a versatile and flavorful herb that has a long history of use in both culinary and medicinal applications. It’s native to southern Russia, western Asia, and parts of Europe, but is now widely cultivated around the world.
Historically, chervil has been used as a medicinal herb to treat digestive issues, respiratory problems, and skin conditions. It has also been used as a natural diuretic and to stimulate milk production in nursing mothers.
In modern times, chervil is mainly used as a culinary herb. It has a mild, anise-like flavor and is often used to add depth and complexity to soups, sauces, salads, and egg dishes. It’s particularly popular in French cuisine and is a key ingredient in the classic herb blend known as fines herbs.
Nutritional Benefits of Chervil
Chervil is a low-calorie herb that is packed with a variety of nutrients. Here are some of the key nutritional benefits of chervil:
|Vitamins||Chervil is an excellent source of vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant that supports immune system function and helps to prevent cellular damage. It also contains vitamin A, which supports healthy vision and skin.|
|Minerals||Chervil is a good source of minerals like potassium, calcium, and iron. Potassium is essential for maintaining healthy blood pressure and heart function, while calcium is important for building and maintaining strong bones. Iron is needed for healthy red blood cell production and helps to prevent anemia.|
|Antioxidants||Chervil contains a variety of antioxidants, including flavonoids, carotenoids, and phenolic compounds. These nutrients help to protect the body against cellular damage and may reduce the risk of chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.|
|Digestive benefits||Chervil is rich in dietary fiber, which can help to improve digestion and reduce the risk of constipation. It also contains compounds that may help to reduce inflammation in the digestive tract, which can be beneficial for individuals with conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).|
Uses of Chervil
Known as a versatile herb, chervil is used in a variety of culinary applications. Here are some of the most common uses of chervil:
|Culinary uses||Chervil has a delicate, anise-like flavor that makes it a popular ingredient in a wide range of dishes. It’s often used to add flavor to soups, stews, sauces, and dressings. It also pairs well with fish, chicken, eggs, and vegetables.|
|Garnish||Chervil is often used as a garnish to add a touch of color and flavor to dishes. Its delicate, lacy leaves can be sprinkled over soups, salads, and other dishes to add a fresh, herbal flavor.|
|Herb blends||Chervil is a key ingredient in the classic French herb blend known as fines herbs. This blend typically includes chervil, parsley, tarragon, and chives, and is used to add flavor to dishes like omelets, quiches, and sauces.|
|Medicinal uses||Chervil has a long history of use in traditional medicine for a variety of ailments, including digestive issues, respiratory problems, and skin conditions. However, more research is needed to determine the full range of potential health benefits of chervil.|
How to Propagate Chervil
Chervil can be propagated in several ways. It’s an easy herb to propagate and can be grown from seeds, cuttings, or division. With the right care and attention, you can have a steady supply of fresh chervil to use in your cooking and enjoy its many health benefits.
Let’s have a look at how you can propagate chervil effectively:
|Seeds||Chervil can be grown from seeds, which can be sown directly in the ground in early spring or started indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost. Sow the seeds thinly in a moist, well-draining soil and cover lightly with soil. Keep the soil moist and provide the seedlings with plenty of light. Chervil seeds can take up to 2-3 weeks to germinate.|
|Cuttings||Chervil can also be propagated from cuttings. Take a stem cutting from an established chervil plant and remove the lower leaves. Dip the cut end in rooting hormone and plant it in a container filled with moist potting soil. Keep the soil moist and provide the cutting with plenty of light. The cutting should root within a few weeks and can be transplanted to a larger container or in the ground.|
|Division||Chervil can also be propagated through division. Dig up an established chervil plant and carefully separate the roots into smaller clumps. Replant the clumps in a well-draining soil, water thoroughly, and keep the soil moist until the plants become established.|
Popular Types of Chervil
There are several varieties of chervil, each with slightly different characteristics. Here are some of the most common varieties of chervil that you can opt to grow in your garden.
Plain Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium)
The plain chervil is the most common variety of chervil, with delicate, lacy leaves and a mild, anise-like flavor. It’s often used in French cuisine and is a key ingredient in fine herbs.
Curled Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium var. crispum)
Curled chervil as the names goes has curly leaves that are slightly thicker than plain chervil. It has a slightly stronger flavor than plain chervil and is often used as a garnish.
Russian Chervil (Anthriscus sylvestris)
This variety has a stronger flavor than plain chervil and is often used in Russian cuisine. It has larger leaves and a slightly more bitter taste.
Turnip-Rooted chervil (Chaerophyllum bulbosum)
Turnip root chervil has a slightly sweet, earthy flavor and produces a small, edible bulb at the base of the plant. It is often used in salads and soups.
How to Care for Your Chervil
Here are some areas to consider when growing chervil.
Chervil is a cool-season herb that thrives in cooler climates with moist soil and partial shade. It grows best in USDA hardiness zones 4-8, which include parts of North America, Europe, and Asia.
Best Time to Plant
The best time to plant chervil depends on your climate and the planting method you plan to use. Here are some guidelines for planting chervil:
- Direct sowing – If you plan to sow chervil seeds directly in the ground, the best time to plant is in early spring, as soon as the soil can be worked. In USDA hardiness zones 4-8, this is usually around mid-March to early April. You can also plant chervil seeds in the fall, about 6-8 weeks before the first frost, for a late fall or early winter harvest.
- Starting seeds indoors – If you plan to start chervil seeds indoors, the best time to plant is 4-6 weeks before the last expected frost date in your area. This will give the seedlings time to grow and develop before being transplanted outside. In USDA hardiness zones 4-8, this is usually around late February to early March.
- Planting seedlings – If you plan to transplant chervil seedlings, the best time to plant is in early spring or late summer/early fall. Transplant seedlings in the evening or on a cloudy day to minimize transplant shock.
Chervil prefers partial shade and cooler temperatures and isn’t a heat-loving plant. It grows best in areas with morning sun and afternoon shade, or in dappled shade throughout the day.
Chervil does well with 3-4 hours of sunlight per day. Too much sun exposure can cause the plant to bolt (produce flowers and seeds), which can make the leaves taste bitter and reduce the quality of the harvest.
If you are growing chervil indoors, you can place it near a north-facing window or under fluorescent lights to provide the necessary amount of light. If you are growing chervil outdoors, you can plant it in a spot that gets morning sun and afternoon shade, or in a spot that is shaded by a tree or other plants.
Chervil is a cool-season herb that prefers cooler temperatures and is not a heat-loving plant. It grows best in temperatures between 50°F and 70°F (10°C to 21°C), although it can tolerate temperatures as low as 40°F (4°C) and as high as 80°F (27°C) for short periods of time.
If temperatures are too high, chervil may bolt (produce flowers and seeds) prematurely, which can cause the leaves to become bitter and reduce the quality of the harvest. On the other hand, if temperatures are too low, growth may be slow and stunted.
It’s important to note that chervil is not frost-tolerant and should be protected from freezing temperatures. If you live in an area with cold winters, you can grow chervil as an annual or plant it in a container that can be brought indoors during the winter months.
If you are growing chervil in a garden bed, it’s a good idea to amend the soil with compost or well-rotted manure before planting. This will help to improve soil structure, increase soil fertility, and retain moisture.
On the other hand, if you are growing chervil in a container, choose a pot that is at least 8-10 inches deep and fill it with a high-quality potting mix that contains peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite. This will provide good drainage and aeration for the roots.
Chervil prefers consistently moist soil, but not waterlogged conditions. The amount of water chervil needs depends on several factors, including the weather, soil type, and planting location.
Water your chervil deeply once or twice a week, depending on the weather and soil conditions. When watering, be sure to water the soil around the base of the plant, rather than the leaves, to avoid promoting fungal growth.
If the weather is hot and dry, or if the soil is sandy and drains quickly, you may need to water chervil more frequently to keep the soil moist. On the other hand, if the weather is cool and moist, or if the soil is heavy and holds water, you may need to water chervil less often to avoid overwatering.
It’s also important to monitor chervil for signs of stress, such as wilting or yellowing leaves, which can indicate that the plant is not getting enough water. Adjust your watering schedule accordingly to ensure that chervil has the right amount of moisture to thrive.
Shaping and Pruning
Pruning and shaping are not typically necessary when growing chervil. Chervil is a low-growing herb that does not require extensive pruning or shaping to maintain its shape or size.
You can pinch back the tips of the stems to encourage bushier growth and to prevent the plant from becoming too tall and leggy. Pinching back the tips will also help to promote the growth of new leaves, which will keep the plant healthy and productive.
It’s also a good idea to harvest chervil regularly to keep the plant from becoming overcrowded and to encourage new growth. Simply snip off the outer leaves as needed, leaving the inner leaves to continue growing.
Chervil is a cool-season herb that is typically grown as an annual, although it can sometimes overwinter in mild climates. In areas with cold winters, chervil will not survive freezing temperatures and should be treated as an annual.
If you live in a mild climate where temperatures stay above freezing, you may be able to overwinter chervil and enjoy a longer harvest period. To do this, you can either mulch the plant heavily to protect it from cold temperatures or move it to a protected area such as a greenhouse or covered porch.
In areas with hot summers, chervil may not survive the heat and can quickly bolt and go to seed. To prolong the harvest period, you can plant chervil in a cool, shaded area or provide shade cloth to protect it from the hot sun.
Harvesting and Preserving
Harvesting chervil is a simple process that can be done throughout the growing season. To harvest chervil, simply snip off the outer leaves with a pair of sharp scissors or garden shears. Leave the inner leaves and stem intact so that the plant can continue to produce new growth.
It’s best to harvest chervil in the morning, after the dew has dried but before the sun gets too hot. This will help to ensure that the leaves are at their freshest and most flavorful.
To preserve chervil, you can either dry it or freeze it. Drying chervil is a simple process that involves hanging the stems upside down in a cool, dry place until the leaves are completely dry and brittle. Once the leaves are dry, you can remove them from the stems and store them in an airtight container.
Freezing chervil is also a great way to preserve its flavor and aroma. To freeze chervil, wash and dry the leaves, then chop them finely and place them in ice cube trays. Fill the trays with water and freeze until solid. Once the cubes are frozen, you can transfer them to a resealable freezer bag or container.
Chervil can also be preserved in oil or vinegar. To do this, simply wash and dry the leaves, then place them in a jar and cover them with either oil or vinegar. Store the jar in a cool, dark place for several weeks to allow the flavor to develop. The resulting oil or vinegar can be used in a variety of recipes, adding a burst of fresh chervil flavor to your dishes.
Chervil – Common Problems and Easy Solutions
Growing chervil is generally a straightforward process, but like any plant, it can be affected by a variety of problems. Here are some common problems that can occur when growing chervil and their solutions that you could try to help your plant thrive:
Poor germination – Chervil seeds can be slow to germinate and may have a low success rate. To improve germination, soak the seeds in water for a few hours before planting, and keep the soil moist but not waterlogged.
Bolting – Chervil is a cool-season herb and can bolt or go to seed quickly in hot weather. To prevent bolting, plant chervil in a cool, shaded area or provide shade cloth to protect it from the sun.
Pests – Chervil can be affected by a variety of pests, including aphids, slugs, and snails. To control these pests, try using natural remedies such as insecticidal soap or diatomaceous earth.
Diseases – Chervil can be affected by a variety of fungal diseases, including powdery mildew and root rot. To prevent these diseases, make sure to plant chervil in well-drained soil, avoid overwatering, and provide good air circulation around the plants.
Nutrient deficiencies – Chervil may be prone to nutrient deficiencies, especially if grown in poor soil. To prevent nutrient deficiencies, make sure to fertilize the soil before planting and provide additional nutrients as needed throughout the growing season.
How to Grow Chervil in a Pot
Chervil can be easily grown in a pot, making it a great herb to grow for those with limited garden space or who want to keep the plant indoors. Here are some steps to follow for growing chervil in a pot:
- Choose a Container: Select a container that is at least 8 inches deep and has good drainage holes. You can use a plastic or terracotta pot.
- Soil: Fill the pot with well-draining potting soil mixed with some compost. Chervil prefers a slightly acidic soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0.
- Sow seeds: Sprinkle chervil seeds over the surface of the soil and press them lightly into the soil. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil.
- Water: Water the soil gently and keep it moist, but not waterlogged.
- Light: Chervil prefers partial shade and does not do well in direct sunlight. Place the pot in a location that receives morning sun and afternoon shade.
- Maintenance: Keep the soil moist and fertilize the plant with a balanced fertilizer every 4 to 6 weeks. Pinch back the tips of the plant to encourage bushy growth.
- Harvest: Chervil leaves can be harvested once the plant has reached 4 to 6 inches in height. Harvest the outer leaves and leave the inner leaves to continue growing.
How to Grow Chervil in the Garden
Chervil is a cool-season herb that can be easily grown in the garden by following these steps:
- Choose a Location: Select a location in the garden that receives partial shade, as chervil does not do well in direct sunlight. Chervil prefers a cool and moist environment.
- Soil: Chervil prefers well-draining soil with a slightly acidic pH of 6.0 to 7.0. Add some compost or organic matter to the soil to improve its quality.
- Sow seeds: Sow chervil seeds directly in the garden bed in early spring or fall. Scatter the seeds on the soil surface and cover them with a thin layer of soil.
- Water: Keep the soil moist by watering the plant regularly but avoid overwatering as chervil does not do well in waterlogged soil.
- Light: Chervil prefers partial shade and does not do well in direct sunlight. Place the plant in a location that receives morning sun and afternoon shade.
- Maintenance: Fertilize the plant with a balanced fertilizer every 4 to 6 weeks. Pinch back the tips of the plant to encourage bushy growth. Mulch the plant with organic matter to keep the soil moist and cool.
- Harvest: Chervil leaves can be harvested once the plant has reached 4 to 6 inches in height. Harvest the outer leaves and leave the inner leaves to continue growing.
FAQ’s about Chervil
Chervil can be grown by sowing seeds in well-draining soil and keeping the soil moist. It prefers partial shade and cool temperatures.
The best place to plant chervil is in a location that receives partial shade and has well-draining soil with a slightly acidic pH.
The best way to grow chervil is by sowing seeds directly in the soil in early spring or fall, keeping the soil moist, and fertilizing regularly.
Yes, chervil is relatively easy to grow if it is given the right growing conditions, such as well-draining soil, partial shade, and cool temperatures.
Chervil is an annual herb, which means it completes its life cycle in one growing season.
Yes, chervil is cold hardy and can tolerate frost.
Chervil may die due to overwatering, underwatering, poor soil quality, or pest infestations.
No, chervil has shallow roots and does not require deep soil.
The best soil for chervil is well-draining soil with a slightly acidic pH.
Chervil is an amazing herb to grow in your garden or on your windowsill. It’s easy to grow and care for, and its delicate leaves and stems offer a subtle yet distinct flavor that can enhance a wide range of dishes.
Chervil is also rich in vitamins and minerals, making it a nutritious addition to your diet. Whether you are an experienced gardener or just starting out, growing chervil can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience that adds flavor and nutrition to your meals.