Local delivery and installation available in Auckland now!

Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium)

Chervil - Herb

Chervil is a cool season annual, so seeds sown in spring and fall will do best. The herb tends to bolt in the summer from the high heat in much the same way that cilantro does.Growing chervil near broccoli and lettuce plants can be beneficial to them. It does well planted near other shade loving plants. Be aware that if you plant it near radishes, it can give them an even spicier flavour! An added bonus for the companion plants is that chervil helps to deter slugs. It shares one of the same aromatic compounds as tarragon, which gives it a very delicate anise aroma and flavour.

How to grow

  • In mild but not hot areas, sow year-round
  • In very warm to hot areas (e.g. Northland), sow late summer and autumn for harvest in winter and spring
  • Site winter crops in full sun, and summer sowings in dappled or half-shade (but not full shade). Under deciduous trees works well
  • Sow directly into in a well-drained, light soil, rich in compost
  • Use fresh seed only, and do not cover, as seeds need light to germinate. Press lightly into soil or sow in a furrow about 2cm deep
  • Germination is slow – keep seedbeds moist with fine watering for 7-21 days
  • Drying out causes poor flavour and bolting so keep the growing plants moist especially in hot periods – mulching will help conserve moisture and keep temperatures even
  • Once the seedlings are 4-6cm high thin to 15-20cm apart
    In frosty areas, a greenhouse or cloches can improve productivity
  • Start picking when plants are just 10 cm high – pick just before use as they wilt quickly
  • Snip leaves (rather than pulling) and harvest from the outside so the inner leaves can replenish the plants
  • Remove any flower stems during the harvest period
  • Regular picking will keep plants growing fresh new leaves

Potential health and medicinal benefits

Herbalists have used chervil for several medicinal purposes throughout history: as a diuretic, expectorant, digestive aid and skin freshener. It was also thought to relieve symptoms of eczema, gout, kidney stones, and pleurisy. Today, it is most widely known as a remedy for high blood pressure.The tender young leaves of chervil have been used in spring tonics for thousands of years, dating back to the ancient Greeks. A combination of chervil, dandelion and watercress rejuvenates the body from vitamin and mineral deficiencies brought on by winter and lack of fresh greens. Even today European herbalists recommend this tonic.Chervil is a traditional remedy for bad dreams, burns and stomach upsets. It is an excellent source of antioxidants that stabilize cell membranes and reduce inflammation associated with headache, sinusitis, peptic ulcer and infections. Chervil is used as eyewash to refresh the eyes. Chervil was also made into a tea and ingested to reduce blood pressure. 

Chervil is nutritious, being a good source of vitamin C, carotene, iron and magnesium. Chervil is also a rich source of bioflavonoids, which aid the body in many ways, including vitamin C absorption. It is an aid to sluggish digestion. When brewed as a tea, it can be used as soothing eyewash. The whole plant reportedly relieves hiccoughs, a practice still tried by some people. 

Chervil is also linked to the Easter celebration in parts of Europe, where it is eaten as part of the ceremony for Holy Thursday; it’s associated with Easter because its aroma is similar to that of myrrh (one of the gifts to the baby Jesus from the three wise men) and because its early spring sprouting symbolizes renewal.Both leaves and root are used in cookery. The sprigs of chervil make an excellent garnish. In French cookbooks chervil is called ‘pluches de cerfeuille’ or blanched sprig of chervil. These are used in soups. The French also use chervil in their traditional ‘fines herbes’ along with tarragon, parsley and chives. Its flavour is lost very easily, either by drying the herb, or from too much heat, so it should be added at the end of cooking or sprinkled on food in its fresh, raw state. One way to keep chervil’s flavour is to preserve it in white wine vinegar. Because its flavour is so potent, little else is needed as flavouring when it is added to foods. This makes it a low-calorie way to add interest to meals. Its delicate leaves make it an attractive herb to use for garnishes. Despite its fragile appearance, it keeps well, and will last up to a week in the refrigerator.

If you are going to use Chervil to treat an existing health condition please consult with your healthcare provider first.