Chervil Anthriscus cerefolium tastes like a cross between aniseed and parsley and is surprisingly easy to grow and eat!
Chervil (sometimes called French Parsley) is best started from seed and is a self-sowing biennial. Growing to a height of between 20-30cm chervil is perfect for a slightly shady, cooler spot in you herb garden. Sow seeds between March and August for a harvest period of up to October, if growing outdoors, longer if you have pots in a conservatory.
Chervil makes a lovely herb salad when used with lovage leaves and a few other herbs for garnish so why not use an overlooked part of your garden for this fab little plant. The leaves are a key ingredient to fines herbes and if you want to make your own herb blends then get growing!
Sowing Chervil Seeds Indoors Vs Outdoors
- If sowing chervil seeds indoors wait until 2 weeks before the fear of frost has passed. Sow in biodegradable pots as the long taproot will start to develop early on.
- Moisten the soil and sprinkle the seeds on, they will need light to germinate so press them to the soil to ensure contact, but do not cover with soil.
- Chervil seeds take around 14 days to germinate while in a heated propagator. This is the one advantage to planting outdoors, but you will still get good germination rates outside. Once the seedlings have germinated move them to a spot which gets sunlight, but not direct sunlight all day long.
- In a few weeks the seedlings should be large enough to handle. Plant out in their own individual pots, terracotta for preference with around 1 foot in depth at least. Or plant directly in the ground. A shady spot would be perfect. Dig through some well rotted manure and plant at least a foot from one another. We find they do grow well in a bed with lovage as they both enjoy the same number of hours of sun and higher levels of watering than most herbs.
- From sowing to harvesting your chervil should take around nine weeks. A cloche will help you to keep chervil as a winter crop as well.
- If sowing seeds outdoors you will need to prepare a bed in partial shade to full shade. Wait until the fear of frost has passed (mid-March to April) and sow directly into shallow trenches, 1/2 inch deep. Rows will need to be around a foot apart. Cover with a light sprinkling of soil and water well.
- Once the seedlings are strong enough to handle (as in not just first leaves, but true leaves too) thin them to around 15-20cm apart.
- Keep them well watered and harvest regularly.
TOP TIP- Chervil will be a good Winter crop if you use a cloche or grow in a greenhouse. Perfect in Winter salads!
Chervil – Common Pests, Problems And Benefits
- Aphids. Keep an eye out for these little monsters. Often the first signs are the black sooty mold that comes from the sticky honeydew they excrete. Our best way to tackle them on edible plants is by using nature against them! We buy live ladybirds from a reputable company, then just make sure that there is plenty of habitat in the garden for them too.
- Bolting. Chervil gets lumped in with all herbs and gardeners tend to think it needs copious amounts of sunshine and little water. Well in reality you will be able to help prevent bolting by keeping chervil in a more shaded spot and watering regularly in Summer months. We also recommend a good mulch to stop too much moisture being removed by the heat of the sun. We have an article on bolting in herbs here.
- Flowering. The flowers form small umbels and it can produce fruit before turning to seed. Once it has flowered the leaves become bitter. This is not uncommon in herbs, but it will be quite a shock if you are planning on using the leaves in your cooking. The flowers are not without their beauty though. So successional planting can help you to enjoy the flowers, let them self seed and still have a crop to harvest.
- Slugs and Snails. Very common in the UK. A good mulch will help as will eggshells, copper collars, beer traps etc. We find that having our chickens free range works on so many plants, but they do tend to eat the chervil if we let them try for slugs.
- Cats and Small Animals. we all know how much the cat net door likes to use a freshly dug garden bed for their own personal toilet. So for lots of tips to humanely deter them have a read of this article. Small animals such as rabbits and groundhogs will try to eat them as well. A cloche in the young stages will help and once the chervil has grown out fully you may be able to relax a little.
- Companion Planting. Rumor has it that planting chervil next to a row of radishes will infer a stronger, more intense flavor to the radishes. However they do grow well with lettuce and brassicas as the levels of sunlight and watering are very similar.
Where To Buy Chervil Seeds
It can be hard to purchase the more unusual herbs from your local nursery. We tend towards specialist online nurseries in a lot of cases. Chervil can still be hard to come by in the UK, but we have found our more traditional companies do sell them, even if your nursery do not stock them!
A trusted favourite for us would be a more established seed producer, Mr Fothergill’s Chervil seeds, fit the bill as they are a long established company.
Although a seemingly unusual herb, chervil is a real family pleaser. A gentle aniseed flavor and ease of growing mean the younger ones can get involved too. I have put together an article on drying times here, this will help you to get the most from your chervil!
I have just written an article as a response to this. A few people have been questioning about other herbs mistaken for chervil, like sweet cicely etc. So if you are struggling to get hold of fresh chervil and want to get to grips with substitutions you can reasonably make have a little read here.
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