Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium; Umbelliferae)

Description

A hardy biennial usually grown as an annual with delicate much cut and lacy leaves, flowering stems to 1 ½ ft (45 cm) and small white flowers in clusters from June to August in the second year from sowing. Origin, south-eastern Europe naturalised in some places.

Uses

Leaves have slightly peppery and parsley-like flavour and are the part used, mainly for cooking, in sauces, soup and salads and in particular in omelette fines herbes. Chervil has a medicinal value in cleansing the blood and clearing skin troubles.

History

Introduced by the Romans to this country, it continued to be used from Anglo-Saxon times continuously till late in the last century. Though little used now in this country, it is still very much part of modern French cooking. First used medicinally, and being considered an essential member of the herb garden in Elizabeth lst’s day, the flavour

was later found to be palatable, and it became popular for cooking.

Cultivation

Sow seed outdoors in succession at four-week intervals from February to October in a well drained soil, in drills, thinning to 1 ft (30 cm) apart. It does not like drying out. Cut the leaves about 6—8 weeks after sowing, and a further crop will be produced. An August sowing will give leaves in September-October and early spring, or earlier if protected by cloches. Window boxes and pots are also suitable for overwintering. The seed loses its viability quickly.

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