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(Anthriscus cerefolium)

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About Chervil

Chervil plant

Francophiles regard chervil as the foremost of the five so-called fine herbes, but it has to be absolutely fresh to have any material taste at all—the supermarket stuff is utterly purposeless. It’s used much as serious cooks use parsley, but has a more delicate flavor, with a hint of anise to it (perhaps like a rather mild tarragon).


It is customary to snoot flat-leaf chervils for the curly-leafed types, but most sources, when push comes to shove, will concede that there is no flavor difference, just eyeball appeal. (In fact, at least one source prefers flat-leafed, claiming that curly is sometimes a trifle bitter.)

Most offerings are unnamed, just described as “chervil”; but the named varieties Brussels Winter and Vertissimo, marketed as slower to bolt than most (the plant ordinarily does not take well to warm seasons), are both reasonably available, and one of those would be our choice.


Chervil is best not sown in spring, as it becomes bland, bitter, and tough in hot weather. When sown July to mid August, it crops for a long time through autumn; or sow mid-August to early September for growing under cover through winter, till it flowers in early May.

Despite having a long taproot when planted in-ground, chervil grows well in pots: all it needs is moderately rich soil, moisture, good drainage, and a sunny situation. It is an annual that bolts easily, so it is probably wise to start a new plant often, say every 2 to 3 weeks (chervil matures fairly quickly).

If you are considering growing it in the ground rather than potted, be very careful: a close cousin of it, “wild chervil” (A. sylvestris can notoriously become a highly invasive weed and almost impossible to eradicate. That is not necessarily true of the herb species, but it may well be. Think first, then think second, before proceeding. (But invasive plants can be contained with forethought, as with mint and its relatives.)

Scatter a few seeds on the soil surface, leaving them uncovered (or perhaps under a trace of sifted soil), keep the soil moist, and wait. It typically takes about 6 to 8 weeks to be ready for cutting. (If planting outfoors, direct-seed where you want it, because chervil does not take to being transplanted.)

Note that chervil seed has a life expectancy of a year or so at most: don’t try to save leftovers from season to season.


Chervil wants to be quite well-watered, and dislikes being hot or even really warm.

Chervil notoriously bolts quickly, especially in the warmer months; keep its leaves pinched to prevent the small, white flowers from developing (and subsequently forming seeds).

Do not cook it any more than you have to. In dishes wanting chervil, it is best added at the last moment, with just enough time to get warm.

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