Chervil

Chervil is one of the fines herbes of French gourmet cuisine, though strangely it is little known in the UK except amongst those who have come to appreciate its fine flavour in cooking. This is a shame because chervil is easy to grow and will self-seed readily. As it does not appreciate full sun or intense heat it can do wonderfully in the UK.

Growing chervil:

Chervil should be planted in spring or autumn. If planted in mid-summer it tends to get too much sun and heat and go straight to seed. It prefers the cool and will do best when planted in an area of partial shade that stays relatively damp. The soil should be humus rich and fertile.

It is best to direct sow chervil because it has a long tap root that does not like to be disturbed, though grown in deep pots it will be fine to keep it indoors.

In the southern reaches of the UK chervil can survive a mild winter without any protection but further north it will require a cloche or some other protection over the coldest months. You may feel tempted to snip off the delicate white flowers to prolong leafy growth but if you like chervil then you should perhaps let the plant go to seed. Chervil will self-seed readily in the right locations and plants formed naturally like this are often the best and strongest examples.

If you wish to collect the seeds, which resemble caraway seeds, then you can do so easily by shaking or rubbing seed heads together over a paper bag.

Chervil can be harvested as and when the plants get big enough. The leaves are a slightly aniseed version of parsley, to which chervil is related. They are great in an omelette, with fish, or anywhere you might use parsley. Chervil is best used fresh and raw or only exposed to heat for a short time as it loses much of its delicate when cooked. For this reason it is also best not to preserve it for later use. Chervil has a long cropping period though, and so you will probably find you can use it fresh for much of the year, especially if you protect it as frost looms.

Why grow chervil in the garden?

Chervil is a great ingredient in the kitchen garden, especially for those who enjoy cooking French cuisine. It has a delicate taste and can be used in a wide range of dishes, especially those involving eggs or fish.

Chervil is said to make any radishes grown near it taste spicier. It is a useful companion plant for other relatively shade tolerant plants like lettuce or broccoli which will do better when in shade at midsummer if the weather is going to be warm.  

Quick Facts

Latin Name
Anthriscus cerefolium