You Can Grow That: Chervil

chervilChervil is ephemeral grace. Its finely cut, green leaves emerge during cool spring months, dissipating quickly with summer’s heat. Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) is a very old European herb, one of the components of fines herbs of French cuisine. It is not as well known here in America but it is easy to grow for culinary use. A cousin of parsley, chervil’s leaves are similar but more finely cut and the overall height is smaller, about one foot tall and wide. If left to flower in the summer, the compound umbels display small white flowers, again, similar to parsley or carrot. Because chervil is a hardy annual, seeds should be sown every few weeks in early spring here in Virginia and then again in late summer for a fall crop. Chervil prefers moist soil and partial or afternoon shade.

Leaves can be harvested fresh and taste like a combination of parsley and anise (licorice). Wash and finely cut the leaves to add to egg dishes, fish, fruit salad, cream cheese, cream sauces, cheese dishes, and butter. Add to vegetables such as carrots, beans, corn, and peas during the last few minutes of cooking. It is best to add chervil at the end of hot dishes such as soups and stews because the lengthy heat will make it taste bitter.  The leaves can be dried as well, simply wash and lay flat on paper towels for a few weeks or hang upside down.

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