Chervil 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 in very early spring, end of March to beginning of April. Chervil prefers moist soil and partial or afternoon shade. I prefer to grow it in containers because the ground soil is still very cold plus this prevents slug damage.
The fresh leaves taste like a combination of parsley and anise (licorice). Chervil is great in egg dishes, fish, fruit salad, cream cheese, cream sauces, cheese dishes, and butter. The foliage also can be added 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 exposure to heat for a long time will make it taste bitter. Next year, purchase a package of seeds and try growing chervil in your garden.