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What is Chervil?

Mary Elizabeth
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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Chervil, or Anthriscus cerefolium, is an annual that many cultivate as a culinary herb. It is in the parsley family. A related plant, Chaerophyllum bulbosum, is grown for its edible root.

History

Although many people may not be familiar with chervil, it has been around for a long time. Aristophanes, a playwright of Ancient Greece, mentioned it in an early comedy, while Pliny, the Roman naturalist and scholar, referred to its use in cooking and medicine.

Description

Chervil grows to a height of 12 to 26 inches (30 to 66 cm). Its small white flowers bloom from May through July.

Gardening

This plant prefers light shade. It is best to serial plant in order to maintain a ready supply. Chervil can be grown in a window box, and it will over-winter if the temperature stays at 45°F (7°C) or higher.

Chervil is best used fresh. To store it, it should be wrapped in damp paper towels and plastic and kept in the crisper or hydrator in the refrigerator. It can only be used for two to three days. Its short life span means that it is difficult to find for sale, and this is one reason that it is not well known.

Food and Other Uses

The lemon-anise flavor of chervil is lost with long cooking times. Because of this fragility, it should be added at the very end of preparation of cooked foods or used as a garnish. There is not much use for dried chervil.

Found in soups and sauces, and also used in fish and egg dishes, chervil is a fundamental salad ingredient in southern France and northern Italy. In fact, it is one of the typical greens in French mesclun, along with arugula and endive. It is also included in fines herbes mixtures, along with tarragon, chives, and parsley. The flowers are used in salads as well.

Young chervil, along with baby basil, arugula, and others, are part of a class of items called microgreens or microherbs that are a popular garnish, topping, and accent, replacing parsley in some milieus. They are available from specialty grocers and farmers' markets.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary Elizabeth
By Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to writing articles on art, literature, and music for DelightedCooking, Mary works as a teacher, composer, and author who has written books, study guides, and teaching materials. Mary has also created music composition content for Sibelius Software. She earned her B.A. from University of Chicago's writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont.
Discussion Comments
By anon117517 — On Oct 11, 2010

I've used dried Chervil leaves for years to season beef in this ratio: two parts Chervil to one part Thyme to one part Basil. Put it all in a mortar or bowl and crush it up a bit and then smell it. Mmmmm. Then encrust your prime rib roast with it plus roll some slivers of garlic in it and shove it into the roast at various places. You will be blown away.

By amypollick — On Aug 16, 2010

@104388: You can rarely find chervil in stores in the U.S., as far as I know, but it is extremely easy to grow from seed. And it's a good fall crop, so you can start it now. I grew chives and chervil in the same pot last year and may do the same this year, as well. All they need is some garden soil mix (like Miracle-Gro or similar), a medium-sized pot, sunshine and water.

By anon104388 — On Aug 16, 2010

I would think you could use anise in place of it. I can't seem to find it here either.

By anon30082 — On Apr 13, 2009

So, what would you suggest I use in lieu of chervil, 'cause I can't get it anywhere around where I live? It is for beef wellington.

Mick

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the...
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