What is Chervil? If you have this question in your mind then this article will tell you Everything About Growing Chervil in detail!
The Chervil or Anthriscus cerefolium is a delicious annual herb that never fails to create a solid impression in kitchen gardens and outdoors with its lush green look. With a unique, sweet, peppery flavor that loves to grow in cool, shady spots, it can be a superstar plant to grow at home.
Common Names: French Parsley or Garden Chervil
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What is Chervil?
Chervil is a tender leafy herb that usually grows 25-30 cm tall and can sometimes grow up to 50-60 cm. Once matured, this plant produces tall flower stalks with clusters of tiny, edible, white blooms. This highly aromatic herb with underlying notes of anise provides its delicate, sweet flavor that can taste like a combination of fennel, licorice, and parsley. However, the herb tastes bitter when the plant starts to flower.
Popular as Rich Man’s Parsley, French parsley, or sweet cicely, this annual herb grows best in USDA Zones 3-7. It is majorly used in French cuisine, along with chives, tarragon, and parsley.
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Chervil Vs. Parsley
Although Chervil is closely associated with Parsley, it is a known fact that Chervil is milder in taste. The subtler flavor makes it perfect for substituting dried and fresh parsley, most commonly used in French cuisine.
- While Chervil has a delicate anise taste with a subtleness of Parsley’s grassiness, Parsley has an intense grass-like flavor with a slight bitterness.
- Chervil leaves are more lacy and feathery in comparison with the flat leaves of Parsley. Also, the leaves are of a pale green shade, while Parsley produces dark green ones.
- Chervil is not as aromatic and intense as Parsley, which is the main difference. Also, Parsley has more versatile culinary uses. Both of them are essential and nutritional herbs, and we cannot tell you which one is better.
- Chervil is usually common in France and neighboring parts of Europe only, and the dried version is more easily accessible in other parts of the world. In contrast, Parsley can be found more readily in pretty much anywhere in the world and is usually cheaper, too.
Substitute for Chervil
If you are cooking something French and lack fresh or dried Chervil, here’s a list of its substitutes for you:
Substitutes for Fresh Chervil
- Combination of Tarragon and Parsley
- Parsley leaves
- Dill weed
- Fennel leaves
- Combination of chives, lemon thyme, fennel leaves, and hyssop
- Japanese Parsley
Dried Chervil Substitute
Do note that this dried herb has more or less no flavor. However, some recipes may still need it. Here are the substitutes:
- Dried Fines Herbes
- Dried Parsley
- Dried Chives
Chervil can be propagated in several ways:
The best and most speedy way to propagate chervil is by seeds. Here’s how:
- Selecting Seeds: Begin by sourcing fresh chervil seeds, as they lose viability quickly. It’s ideal to use seeds that are no more than a year old.
- Timing: Chervil prefers cooler weather, so the best times to sow are either early spring or early autumn.
- Soil Preparation: Use a well-draining soil mix, preferably one designed for seed starting. If you’re planting directly into the garden, ensure the soil is loose and free from large clumps.
- Planting Depth: Sow the chervil seeds about 1/4 inch deep.
- Spacing: If sowing in a seed tray or pots, sprinkle a few seeds into each cell or pot. If sowing directly in the ground, space the seeds about 10-12 inches apart.
- Watering: Moisten the soil gently but thoroughly after sowing. Make sure it stays consistently moist, but not soggy until the seeds germinate.
- Germination: Chervil seeds typically germinate within 7 to 14 days. They prefer cooler temperatures between 60-70°F (15-21°C).
- Thinning: Once the seedlings have developed their first true leaves (after the initial pair of leaves), thin them to one plant per cell or pot. If directly sown in the ground, thin the seedlings to stand 8-10 inches apart.
- Transplanting: If you started the chervil in pots or trays, wait until they are a few inches tall and then transplant them to their final location.
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Growing Chervil as a Microgreen
You can also choose to grow this gourmet herb as a microgreen. Take a shallow plastic tray, fill it with soilless seed mix, and spread the seeds on top. Use 1-2 teaspoons of chervil seeds for every 6-9 inches long and 3-6 inches wide tray and gently press them in.
Use a spray bottle to moisten the medium and place it in a clear plastic bag. Place a few sticks to keep the plastic from touching the growing medium and poke in 10-15 holes for ventilation. Once the seeds germinate, remove the plastic cover and place it in a bright spot where it receives 4-5 hours of morning sunlight daily.
When the sprouts grow up to 5-6 inches tall, you can harvest the microgreens, snipping them off down to the soil line.
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Requirements for Growing Chervil
Choose a place that receives partial shade for the chervil to thrive best. Chervil tends to bolt faster in warmer weather and shoots up white blooms that turn into seed heads and dull the flavor.
Avoid any location that receives full and direct sunlight to preserve the delicious taste.
Chervil loves to grow in fertile, humus-rich, damp, loamy soil with a pH between 6.5-7.0. You can prepare the best soil for this herb by mixing a good amount of organic content, such as compost, to encourage the nutrients.
Also, mix in bits of coconut coir and peat to help retain moisture.
Keep this plant well-watered, as the medium needs to be evenly moist. It does not prefer the drying out conditions, so do not wait for the top layer to dry out.
If the top 0.5 inch starts to feel dry, it is time to water it. On average, it requires about an inch of water every week.
Chervil can thrive well in part shade and part sunlight in cooler parts. It is ideal when the temperature remains above freezing and below 65°F or 18°C during the growing period.
If you live in a hotter zone and grow chervil, it is a good idea to plant it in full shade where temperatures are above 80°F or 26°C.
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You may not need additional fertilizing if you have added enough organic matter for this short-lived plant during planting. However, if needed, you can feed it with a balanced nitrogen-rich fertilizer once or twice during the growing season.
Do refer to the label for dosage and instructions
Pests and Diseases
Chervil can be a big target for slugs and aphids. Try picking any slugs off using your hand to keep these bugs at bay. You can plant some companion plants nearby, such as lettuce, Brassicas, and radishes, to ensure it stays safe from these pests.
In diseases, the most common disease affecting chervil is downy mildew, caused by the fungus-like organism Plasmopara. This disease manifests as pale yellow patches on the upper leaf surface, with a fluffy, white to pale gray fungal growth on the underside.
Another concern is Cercospora leaf spot, which presents as small, dark spots on the leaves. This fungal disease can spread in wet conditions.
Additionally, chervil might fall prey to root rot in waterlogged soils, leading to the wilting and yellowing of plants.
To combat these diseases, ensure good airflow around the plants, avoid overhead watering, and practice crop rotation. Using disease-free seeds and ensuring well-draining soil can also help prevent these ailments.
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1. Right Time
- Age: Chervil is typically ready for harvest 6-8 weeks after planting from seed.
- Height: When the plants reach about 10-12 inches in height and have a good amount of feathery foliage, they are usually mature enough to be harvested.
- Cut-and-Come-Again: Chervil can be harvested using the cut-and-come-again method. Using clean, sharp scissors or pruners, snip the stems about 2 inches above the soil. This encourages the plant to produce new growth for later harvests.
- Individual Leaves: If you don’t need a large quantity, you can pinch off individual leaves as needed, which also promotes more growth.
- Whole Plant: For a larger harvest, you can also uproot the whole plant. However, this method doesn’t allow for successive harvests from the same plant.
- Spring and Autumn: Chervil prefers cool weather and doesn’t fare well in the hot summer months. It’s best to harvest chervil in the cooler parts of spring and then again in autumn if you have a second planting.
- Before Flowering: For the best flavor and leaf production, harvest chervil before it begins to flower. Once chervil flowers, the leaves can become bitter.
To maximize your chervil harvest and ensure a continuous supply, consider successive plantings every 2-3 weeks during the cool growing seasons. This will provide a steady stream of fresh chervil throughout the spring and fall. Always remember that chervil is sensitive to heat, so during the peak of summer, it’s likely to bolt (flower and go to seed). Harvesting regularly can also help delay the bolting process.