Dashingly Delicious Chervil: How to Grow and Cook

Konnichi wa / Great Outdoors

Introduction

Chervil has a subtle flavor that is popular in French cooking often referred to as French parsley with a hint of lemon. It can be used as a garnish for salads, soups, and other dishes. Chervil is also great in eggs or omelettes and adds an interesting taste without overpowering the dish. You can find chervil at your local grocery store!

Watch this video on how to grow chervil

What is Chervil?

Chervil (or anthriscus cerefolium) is a delicate herb in the parsley family with a mild flavor. It looks similar to flat-leaf parsley, but has a slight anise flavor and subtle licorice notes. The aromatic leaves are edible and can be used in soups or salads like other herbs, as well as herbal tea blends and egg dishes.

The first record of chervil comes from 16th century France where it was cultivated by King Louis XIV’s gardener at Versailles Palace for use on meat dishes. Today it grows primarily across Europe with some populations found throughout North America (especially along the east coast). Chervil may not always show up in grocery stores because its peak season is only two months long! That said, we grow our own which is why we’ve got it year-round.

Chervil is a spring herb that can be used to flavor a variety of dishes. The delicate nature balances heavier flavors like beef, lamb and cheese. It also goes well with onion, carrot or other root vegetables in the winter months when they are less flavorful and more hearty (think vegetable soup!). Some people say it tastes similar to parsley but we think it has its own unique properties that make it taste better than any other herb!

The anise-like notes adds depth you wouldn’t get from flat-leaf parsley alone without overpowering the dish. Its slightly sweet licorice nuances provide much needed brightness for dishes lacking acidity too.

We recommend using chervil in your next recipe for:

  • Pasta Sauce
  • French Onion Soup
  • Herbed Beef with Creamy Mashed Potatoes or Buttered Rice
  • Roasted Chicken Breast
  • Baked Salmon in Dill Butter Sauce

Chervil is also known for its ability to mask bitterness. That means it pairs well with any dish that has an unpleasant taste like brussels sprouts, broccoli and avocado! It’s a great way of adding flavor without overpowering those strong greens. The delicate nature balances out other flavors too when you want something light but flavorful- think gravlax on rye toast! Chervil goes well as garnish atop our favorite dishes too!

How to grow it?

Chervil is a cool-season plant, and will only be happy in the garden if you sow it outside once all danger of frost has passed following spring but before the hot weather of summer. You can grow chervil by planting chervil seeds early spring, late fall, late summer, or indoors six to eight weeks before your last expected frost date. Plant seedlings outdoors when they reach four inches tall, spacing them 12 inches apart. If you are growing more than one row of plants, allow 24 inches between rows.

The soil should contain plenty of compost or other organic material so that it remains loose and friable (especially important for tomatoes). Chervil needs moist soil but not soggy soil; while some people prefer raised beds because these dry out quicker, this also means that weeds may become an issue as well! One way to avoid this is by planting your garden chervil among other beans or peas, which can help keep the soil moist without creating competition for water and nutrients. When chervil is fully grown it will sprout small white flowers.

Generally speaking, you should have a handful of fertilizer at hand when gardening (it's always better to use too little than too much). It is not necessary to fertilize chervil specifically; however, if you are using an organic fertilizer like composted manure, it will be especially beneficial because wild chervil thrives in rich soils with plenty of nitrogen-producing bacteria. Be sure that whatever type of fertilizer you choose has been tested safe for edible gardens.

Garden chervil sometimes escapes cultivation in the United States, but can be distinguished from native plants (Anthriscus caucalis and Anthriscus sylvestris) by long flower stalk.

If possible, plant some near trees so they can provide shade during sunshine hours: tall plants such as corn and sunflowers will be good for this, as they may grow up to eight feet in height.

How to use it

There are many ways to incorporate chervil into your cooking, including using it as a substitute for parsley or other related herbs. This herb is often used in fish and seafood dishes with cream sauces, along with mushrooms and potatoes. It can also be mixed with raw or cooked carrots, celery root, leeks and onions before being added to soup stocks. Chervil has an intense smell that makes it difficult to blend with stronger spices like garlic so mix differently when you want the delicate flavor of both together. You should add this herb at the very end so its delicate aroma doesn't overpower any dish's main flavors.

Why you should use it

Chervil is a culinary herb with an anise-like flavor. Chervil has been used in cooking since the ancient times and its use, like many other herbs, was historically related to how it tasted rather than any specific health benefits that it provided. However, recent research confirms chervil's long purported reputation as a healing plant due to its ability to kill bacteria such as E coli and Staphylococcus Aureus while also boosting immunity:

As one of the earliest cultivated plants known by humans for culinary purposes (alongside basil), this humble member of the carrot family has quietly persisted throughout history through folklore medicine practices both Eastern and Western cultures alike; cherished in Europe not only because it had become essential to French cuisine but also for its medicinal qualities.

Chervil's fresh leaves are used to flavor soups, stocks, and sauces such as béchamel sauce or hollandaise sauce; it is also one of the three main herbs (along with parsley and chives) traditionally used in French herbes de Provence mixture. The stems can be eaten like celery ribs when cooked briefly in boiling water, they lose their pungency after cooking.

Due to its delicate shelf life and lack of storage stability—combined with increasing demand from chefs around the world looking for culinary authenticity—chervil has become an increasingly endangered herb that could easily disappear if not carefully handled by those who value chervil’s unique flavors and health properties.

Recipes that include chervil

Chervil is used extensively in French cuisine, notably in "fines herbes" mixtures. It has a delicate anise-like flavor that pairs well with fish and poultry; it is also traditionally paired with crabmeat or lobster. Chervil can be used to make a blancmange (a milk-based dish).

In Indian cooking chervil appears as one of the ingredients for Bengali dishes such as shorshe bata maach - meaning boiled mackerel curry - which includes among other things mustard paste, ginger paste, coconut powder, cumin seeds, salt and turmeric.

Chicken breast with chervil sauce

Ingredients

  • One skinless, boneless chicken breast per person.
  • A few sprigs of fresh chervil (about one tablespoon) chopped finely or a teaspoon dried.
  • One clove garlic minced with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Two tablespoons of butter.

Directions

About two tablespoons butter, lard or cooking oil for frying the chicken breasts in an ovenproof dish until browned on both sides but not cooked through.

This sauce is also good served cold as an appetizer if you don't want it too rich:

Add about ¼ cup crème fraiche and juice from half a lemon; stir well before adding more seasoning if needed such as salt, white pepper and cayenne.

Add one tablespoon of fresh chopped chervil, if available; stir well and serve with small pieces of bread or toast.

Chervil-flavoured crème fraîche

This recipe calls for chervil and will provide enough to serve as a side dish for two.

Ingredients

  • -One teaspoon of dried chervil that has been soaked in a tablespoon of hot water and then strained, or one tablespoon chopped (in a food processor, if you prefer) fresh chervil;
  • Four tablespoons crème fraîche;
  • Half teaspoon salt;
  • Pinch white pepper.

Directions

Soak the dried herb overnight if using, otherwise just use some freshly picked leaves with stems intact and chop finely. Mix into the cream along with salt and pepper before serving cold on top of breads or toast. You can also add other chopped leaves from herbs such as parsley, tarragon or chives for variety (a classic mixture for "fines herbes" or fines herbs is chervil, parsley and chives).

Cherry tomato and goat cheese tartlets, topped with a balsamic glaze

Ingredients

  • Eight to twelve pitted and halved cherry tomatoes;
  • One tablespoon olive oil, plus more for the baking sheet;
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste;
  • Two ounces fresh goat cheese or another soft cheese of your choice (about one small container), at room temperature. I recommend using whole milk ricotta instead if you can find it locally. Ricotta is not as watery as creamier cheeses like mascarpone, so it helps cut through the tomato flavor a little better sometimes.;
  • Four sheets frozen piecrust dough, thawed but still cold from the fridge or freezer. You will need two unrolled crusts per tartlet.
  • One egg, beaten with a tablespoon of water;
  • Grated cheese for topping (optional)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets or large rimmed baking dishes with parchment paper and brush them lightly with olive oil. Arrange 12 cherry tomatoes on each sheet in an overlapping pattern, cut sides up. Drizzle about one teaspoon of olive oil over each tomato and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes until they are starting to brown but not too dark, then cool slightly before removing from parchment paper. Place one round slice of goat cheese on top of each tartlet at the time as you assemble it if using fresh ricotta instead - otherwise, place some creamier cheeses like mascarpone or fromage blanc on top once the tartlet is assembled.

For each tartlet, unroll two pie crusts and cut into four rectangles with a pizza wheel or sharp knife. Brush one side of each rectangle lightly with egg wash, then place them over the cheese so that it covers half the dough (leaving an inch around all edges). Press firmly to seal at corners without stretching; you should see some custard peeking out in between folds if your tomato slices are small enough.

Sprinkle with salt and grated cheese before baking for 25 minutes until golden brown and slightly puffed up - they will deflate as soon as they come out of the oven due to rising when hot. Top with chervil to taste.

 

Béarnaise sauce

Ingredients  

  • One tablespoon butter;
  • Two tablespoons minced shallots, or one small onion, finely chopped (or ½ cup coarsely chopped green onions);
  • ¼ teaspoon dried chervil leaves;
  • ⅓ cup white wine vinegar;
  • ¾ cup dry white wine;  
  • ½ teaspoon salt;      
  • Pinch freshly ground black pepper.

Directions

Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and add the shallot or onion once it has melted. Cook for five minutes until soft without browning before adding both herbs and cooking another minute to release their flavor. Add the remaining ingredients except for salt and pepper then simmer uncovered on low heat for ten minutes. If it is looking too thick, add a tablespoon or two of water last minute then season with salt and pepper before serving hot over chicken or fish.

Other herbs that are similar to or can be used as substitutes for chervil

A few herbs with flavors similar to chervil include chives and parsley. If you don't have either on hand basil leaves can be used as well. All three herbs share similarities when added raw (alongside your green salad), but they also work wonders with eggs/omelettes and eggplant dishes respectively. To replace one herb with another consider these two factors: does the new herb have a similar flavor profile to the original? Is there enough time before cooking for fat-based ingredients like butter or oil to melt/soften and mix in well with other foods?

Parsley is often used as an alternative to chervil. It has a slightly more intense taste but can be substituted into dishes such as eggs, omelettes, etc. Chives are another good option that also share some similarities with parsley even though it's less potent than parsley. Basil leaves are not quite as versatile but they work very well when paired with eggplant dishes!

Tarragon could technically substitute for chervil by adding it towards the end of your dish - just remember that you need to add less tarragon than you would if chervil was used.

Coriander can be substituted for both chives and parsley, but it doesn't work as well with eggplant dishes! Cilantro also shares a similar flavor profile to the other two herbs mentioned above - I hope this helps your decision-making process when cooking.

Basil leaves are not quite as versatile but they work very well when paired with eggplant dishes!

FAQs

What does chervil taste like?

Chervil has a delicate anise-like flavor that pairs well with fish and poultry; it also goes great when added raw to green salads.

Is chervil the same as parsley?

No! Chervil and parsley are two different herbs, related to the carrot family. Parsley has a more intense taste but can be substituted into dishes such as eggs, omelettes etc.

Chervil should not be added at the end of cooking because it doesn't have a strong flavor like tarragon does - so if you're looking for that stronger bite add your chervil earlier on in the process when fat-based ingredients have time to dissolve and mix in well with other foods."

What is chervil similar to?

A few herbs with flavors similar to chervil include chives and parsley. If you don't have either on hand basil leaves can be used as well. All three herbs share similarities when added raw (alongside your green salad), but they also work wonders with eggs/omelettes and eggplant dishes respectively.

What is the herb chervil used for?

Chervil is mainly used in cooking and pairs especially well with fish and poultry.

Final thoughts on chervil

Hope you enjoyed this article about chervil!

Looking for more on Chervil and other similar content? Try these:

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”

— John Muir

The Great Outdoors Collection

View Our Top Products

READ NEXT

Konnichi wa / Great Outdoors