Chervil, Anthriscus Cerefolium, is a plant that is part of the umbrella family like other aromatic herbs and is relatively simple to grow in the garden, as well as in a pot on the balcony. The leaves of this species are used and a small amount is enough to give the dishes a delicate spicy flavor.
Of Asian origin, this aromatic was imported to Europe in Roman times, in the Middle Ages, it was also known as a plant with medicinal and herbal as well as culinary uses. Chervil, in addition to its flavor, is interesting because it is rich in many beneficial substances including vitamins A and C.
The chervil habitat is herbaceous with about 40 cm tall stems and bright green leaves that turn red in autumn. When the plant is in bloom it emits the characteristic white umbrellas typical of the family to which it belongs, called “Umbelliferae”, or also “Apiaceae”. Various other aromatic plants belong to the same family, such as coriander for example. Now let’s see how to grow it simply in the garden or in pots, in the most ecological way possible.
Starting to cultivate this aromatic plant is very simple: it has few demands regarding the soil and climate and it is not difficult to grow seedlings from seed, directly in the garden soil.
Chervil seeds can be easily found online, below is a reference for those interested.
Soil and fertilization
Chervil has no particular needs as regards the soil, which in any case must be worked, leveled, and enriched with the organic matter based on compost or green manure before sowing.
It requires a sufficiently lit exposure, although in summer it suffers from excessive insolation, so it is better to opt for a middle ground, especially in later sowing, or you can use shading nets during the summer.
Sowing period and method
Chervil is sown directly in the home, or in the garden, rather than in the final pot if we intend to grow it on the balcony. If you want to dedicate a large flower bed to this aromatic, it is preferable to sow in rows 20 cm away from each other, since orderly cultivation allows the management of cleaning from the “weeds” in the middle. For sowing in the field, therefore, shallow and parallel furrows are traced, as straight as possible, and the seeds are distributed, spacing them a little, to then cover and wet.
When growing in very small spaces such as a pot, or a corner of a flowerbed of mixed herbs, broadcast sowing is better because it optimizes the limited surface area available. In this case, you can choose to wet the soil first, then spread the seeds evenly, and finally cover them with soil passed through a sieve so that it falls very finely. This is an alternative to the classic technique which instead involves sowing, covering with a rake, and then wetting. The first method is more accurate because the distribution of the seeds remains what we have decided, while with the second method it inevitably becomes more random due to the action of the rake that spreads them.
If we foresee a wide use of chervil it is convenient to do gradual sowing because the leaves are not very conservable and by sowing new seedlings we will always be able to collect fresh ones at the time of harvest.
To anticipate the crop, it is also possible to carry on with sowing at the end of winter in a warm bed or a seedbed, to have seedlings to be transplanted then to permanent residence, even if not all of them will perhaps take root due to transplant stress.
Cultivation of chervil
After sowing there are no particular cultivation operations to be performed, you just need to respect some simple precautions to keep our chervil in good health. For example, when the seedlings are at their fourth leaf, their density must be evaluated, because if they were too dense it would be important to thin them out in such a way as to guarantee sufficient space and light for the remaining ones.
During the development of the crop, it is necessary to keep the space clean of spontaneous herbs by weeding by hand or using hoes. The weeder is a very good tool to pass between rows and is also useful for aerating the soil, but it only works well when the wild herbs are just born.
Irrigation must be constant but not excessive and for this as for other species, the best method technically and ecologically is drip irrigation, which distributes little water slowly and makes the onset of diseases less likely.
Chervil tends to emit inflorescences that must always be trimmed to keep the plant in a vegetative state and the leaves are well aromatic.
Potted cultivation of chervil
As already written, chervil is also suitable for cultivation on the balcony, for which all the indications already mentioned apply. This aromatic herb requires a medium-sized pot, common soil can be used and it is useful to have drainage at the bottom of the pot. To keep it in a container, regular irrigation is important, which does not cause the soil to dry out.
Collect and store the chervil leaves
The fresh leaves of the chervil are cut by cutting off the petiole at the base of the plant, and this is the best way to collect this aromatic since it allows the development of new shoots.
The storage of dried leaves is instead complicated and the risk is to alter their aroma and the active ingredients contained, so alternatively they can be frozen in small quantities after cleaning them with a damp cloth.
Also in order not to alter the aroma of this spice, when using it in the kitchen, remember to add the leaves to the dishes only when the heat is off, at the end of cooking. As a guideline, chervil can replace parsley whenever a slightly different variant of it is desired. In France in particular it is widely used, while in our kitchen it is still a rarity, and it is a shame because it lends itself deliciously to flavor omelets, salads, soups, and more. Chervil is also used in the preparation of thirst-quenching drinks to replace mint, as well as to flavor vinegar and liqueurs.
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