Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) is a delicate annual herb related to parsley. Sometimes called garden chervil, it is used to season mild-flavoured dishes and is a constituent of the French herb mixture fines herbes.
A member of the Apiaceae
, chervil is native to the Caucasus
but was spread by the Romans through most of Europe, where it is now naturalised.
The plants grow to 40-70cm, with tripinnate leaves that may be curly. The small white flowers form small umbels, 2.5-5cm across. The fruit is about 1cm long, oblong-ovoid with a slender, ridged beak.
Another type of chervil is grown as a root vegetable
, sometimes called turnip rooted chervil
or tuberous-rooted chervil
. This type of chervil produces much thicker roots than types cultivated for their leaves. It was once a popular vegetable in the 19th century. It is now virtually forgotten and is little known in Britain and the United States, root chervil is very common in French cuisine, where it is used in most soups or stews.
Though it looks similar to parsnip it tastes quite different. Parsnips are among the closest relatives of parsley in the umbellifer family of herbs, although the similarity of the names is a coincidence, parsnip meaning "forked turnip". It is not related to real turnips.
Sometimes referred to as "gourmet's parsley", chervil is used to season poultry, seafood, and young vegetables. It is particularly popular in France, where it is added to omelettes, salads and soups. More delicate than parsley, it has a faint taste of liquorice.
Chervil is sometimes used as a trap crop
by gardeners to protect vegetable plants from slugs
Chervil had various traditional uses. Pregnant women bathed in an infusion
of it; a lotion
of it was used as a skin cleanser; and it was used medicinally as a blood
Chervil grows to a height of 12 to 26 inches. Chervil prefers a cool and moist location, otherwise it rapidly goes to seed.
- Howard, Michael. Traditional Folk Remedies (Century, 1987), p.118.