What is Chervil, Garden? How to Use Chervil, Garden

FR: Cerfeuil GER: Kerbel IT: Cerfoglio SP: Perifollo

BOT: Anthriscus cerefolium FAM: Umbelliferae ILL: Plate 6, No. 3

Cow Parsley FR: Cerfeuil sauvage GER: Gemeiner Kerbel IT: Cerfoglio selvatico SP: Perifollo silvestre BOT: Anthriscus sylvestris

Bulbous Rooted Chervil

FR: Cerfeuil bulbeux

GER: Knollenwurzliger Kerbel

IT: Cerfoglio con bulbo

SP: Perifollo bulboso

BOT: Chaerophyllum bulbosum

Garden chervil (there are several other plants also sometimes called chervil) is a close relative of the common cow parsley which whitens the hedgerows in early summer. Garden chervil’s natural home is in southern Russia, the Caucasus and the Middle East. It was probably first brought to Britain by the Romans and can occasionally be found growing wild as an escape.

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Garden chervil has lacy leaves and, like parsley, there are also decorative curled varieties for garnishing. It grows to about eighteen inches high and has tiny white flowers in the usual ‘umbels’ of this family.

This herb can be grown without difficulty in almost any garden or in a window box, but it does not like hot dry conditions. It is an annual which quickly runs to seed. To maintain a supply of leaves one must sow it at intervals during the summer or cut the young plants back to root level when they reach two or three inches, as this encourages the production of leaves. A winter supply can be had only by growing it in boxes in a warm glasshouse.

Garden chervil is little grown in the United States or Britain, or indeed in any country other than France, but there it is important. Therefore, those who are interested in French cooking must grow it for themselves as it is not available in markets. Its flavour is delicate and much less robust than parsley, which it slightly resembles, but it has a distinctive aroma of its own – some say reminiscent of anise, others of liquorice. It is a herb which has to be used fresh – either chopped or in the tiny sprigs of leaf that the French call pluches. It is not a herb for long cooking but is used raw or added when the dish is almost ready and off the boil – for instance, sprinkled into soup just before serving. Garden chervil is a usual herb in the fines herbes for an omelette. It is also one of the classic

herbs in ravigote sauces, and in these – whether hot or cold – it never becomes strongly heated. It is frequently used in combination with tarragon but sometimes flavours sauces such as Bechamel or even seasoned fresh cream. Chervil is also used to flavour a white wine vinegar. It has all the usual uses in salads and garnishes.

Some authorities recommend herb yarrow as a substitute or, at least, as a garnish (see Milfoil).

One must not conffuse garden chervil with the ‘bulbous-rooted chervil’, which is a vegetable and of a different genus of the parsley family. The root of garden chervil is said to be poisonous.

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