Such a delicate pretty herb and so easy to grow .. I scatter Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) seeds wherever I have space in the early spring or autumn ~ usually in damp and shady conditions. I don’t grow them in summer as the delicate leaves hate the heat and sunshine. They simply cannot conserve water and shrivel up. Although Chervil is a hardy biennial, I grow it as an annual for the subtle anise flavour of its leaves.
It has a lacy rosette of fern like leaves which can be cropped for maximum flavour from the outside of the rosette in the young plant. The leaves, flowers and the tap root are harvested. Each of the tiny white flowers produces tiny black seeds but they are rarely used in cooking.
It looks like a lacy, very dainty version of parsley, which is no surprise seeing as they’re close cousins, both in the Umbelliferae family, along with carrots, dill and fennel. As you might expect from its refined appearance, chervil tastes mild and subtle, some say ~ a little like parsley. But I would describe it as kind of sophisticated with its gentle warmth of aniseed.
There are several varieties you can buy:
‘Flat leaved’ is the most commonly available variety in the UK
Crispum which has slightly curled leaves which make a very pretty garnish and also taste great in a salad.
‘Vertissimo’ is a variety of chervil which is much more tolerant of cold. In our unpredictable climate in the UK, it is for me, my variety of choice. It also produces the most vigorous and long lasting mounds of tasty foliage of any variety! (Obtainable from Chiltern Seeds)
Leaves are ready for harvesting in about 8 – 10 weeks after sowing and the leaves can be frozen in sealed plastic bags if you want to store some. Because of the delicate nature of the leaves they do not dry well for storage. Fresh is always best!
Cooking with Chervil
Chervil is used, particularly in French Cuisine, to season poultry, seafood, young spring vegetables (such as carrots), soups, and sauces. I really love new peas, mildly flavoured with Chervil leaves as they are briefly boiled in water.
Chervil is also one of the four traditional French “fines herbes”, along with tarragon, chives, and parsley, which are essential to French cooking. Unlike the more aromatic, robust herbs, thyme, rosemary, etc., which can take prolonged cooking, the fines herbes are always added at the last minute, to salads, omelettes, and soups and even sauces.