The chervil, scientifically known as Anthriscus cerefolium, is an aromatic plant easy to grow in the home garden. It’s considered the sibling of parsley, as they are very similar in botanical characteristics. However, compared to the latter, it has a more delicate aroma. The taste of dishes also varies, but it gives every dish a very unique flavor. As for its cultivation, it’s within everyone’s reach. The plant is very beautiful and can also be grown in pots, on the balcony or terrace.
Let’s now take a closer look at this aromatic plant and how to care for it.
Chervil belongs to the botanical family of Apiaceae or Umbelliferae. Other plants from this family that we’ve already studied include: dill, carrots, fennel, celeriac, and leaf celery. Chervil was already known to the Romans who imported it from regions like present-day southern Russia and the Caucasus. Pliny praised its medicinal virtues. Today, besides in the Old Continent, the plant has spread (both wild and cultivated) to North America and North Africa.
How to Recognize Chervil
Chervil is a biennial herbaceous plant, which is grown in gardens following an annual cycle. It’s a hardy and vigorous species, easy to grow. To recognize this plant, one must observe its characteristics.
- It has a long taproot from which beautiful tufts of basal leaves emerge. These are not longer than 20 cm, very elegant, bipinnate, and deep green in color.
- The leaves represent the aromatic part of the plant, being very pleasant with a fine flavor.
- In its second year of life, the plant forms long erect floral stems, hollow in texture. The average height is 40-60 cm, but they can approach a meter.
- The flowers are grouped in an umbrella-shaped inflorescence, they are small and white.
- Flowering occurs from May, and from the flowers arise tiny, elongated, and blackish seeds.
The Different Varieties
There are two different varieties of chervil:
- Common with smooth leaves, with an intense yet delicate aroma;
- Fine with curly leaves, ideal for garnishing dishes.
How to Cultivate Chervil
To cultivate chervil, one must follow some simple steps:
- Choose a semi-shaded exposure;
- Fertilize the soil;
- Ensure the soil is medium-textured, soft, and deep;
- Directly sow in open ground (wait for spring);
- Thin out the seedlings (planting distance 30 by 50 cm);
- Always keep the soil moist;
- Perform periodic hoeing or use natural mulching;
- For organic defense, use natural macerates and Marseille soap.
Where to Plant Chervil
Chervil withstands low temperatures very well during the winter, so it’s a plant that can be grown anywhere. It’s more susceptible to scorching heat, so choose a semi-shaded position in the garden. If grown in full sun, during the summer months, it will need protection, such as a shade net.
Soil and Fertilization
Although a hardy plant, chervil doesn’t like difficult soils. Ideal for healthy and lush growth is a medium-textured soil, soft and deep. Before starting a chervil cultivation, it’s good practice to apply a base fertilizer, using worm humus or domestic compost.
How to Sow Chervil
Chervil has excellent germination and short emergence times, so the plant generally reproduces from seed. Typically, it doesn’t take more than a week for the seedlings to sprout. The best technique for sowing chervil is direct sowing. Once germinated, the plants should be thinned out, leaving a suitable space of at least 30 cm between one plant and another and 50 cm between rows. You can sow in a regular row, making it easier to thin out excess seedlings. This also allows for better cultivation monitoring. The best time for sowing is spring, avoiding the hottest summer months, although late sowing can be done in August-September. Here you can find the seeds to start cultivation. You can also sow in pots, as long as the plant is grown in a suitable container. Choose pots at least 40 cm in diameter to form a nice bush.
How to Water Chervil
Irrigation is important for lush chervil plants. Especially during the summer, the soil should always be well moistened. If we decide to sow in regular rows, the best irrigation system for chervil is drip irrigation. For pot cultivation, water requirements are higher. In this case, even in spring, care must be taken to keep the soil moist, without causing water stagnation at the bottom of the pot.
How to Care for a Chervil Plant
To best care for our chervil plants, utmost attention should be paid to weed removal. Therefore, hoeing is necessary, especially at the beginning of the cycle when the plants are still small and suffer from competition (for water and space) from other plants. To minimize hoeing work and save water, natural mulching can help, using straw or sheep’s wool.
Biological Defense of the Plant Against Parasites
Among the pests that attack chervil, the most formidable are aphids. These can compromise the success of cultivation in the spring. To remove them from plants, we recommend the preventive use of natural macerates, such as garlic or nettle. For more severe infestations, soft soap (like this) is needed.
When to Harvest Chervil
Chervil is harvested several times during the cultivation cycle. Start about a month after sowing and proceed by cutting the stems at ground level. The plants quickly regenerate, and harvesting can continue uninterrupted until the following spring when the flowering stems form.
How to Use Chervil in the Kitchen
In the kitchen, chervil leaves are used fresh to make the most of the delicate aromatic hints reminiscent of anise. The leaves can be chopped to flavor salads, omelets, soups, and vegetable broths. They should always be added fresh to dishes at the end of cooking; cooking them causes the aroma to be lost.
Chervil also has a use in phytotherapy. It’s a plant rich in beneficial properties, particularly emollient, anti-inflammatory, antirheumatic, and purifying. It seems to be able to treat disorders such as cough, indigestion, high blood pressure, eczema, gout, and abscesses. With the leaves, you can prepare decoctions or infusions, which depending on the case can be used externally (dabbing the areas to be treated with a soaked cloth) or taken orally.