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Winter chervil is a close relation of parsley, originating in southern Russia. It’s delicate flavor, similar to tarragon or fennel, has made it an extremely popular kitchen herb. Chervil has an honored place in every chef’s kitchen, particularly in France. This mild herb is the main ingredient of the famous blend of French herbs known as “fines herbes”, as well as being the seasoning of classic bearnaise sauce. Though not often used for medicinal purposes, it was historically used as a mild tonic or stimulant as well as being a supposed cure for hiccups.
Sowing: A cool weather plant, chervil grows well in full sun or partial shade and light, moist soil. Since it does not take well to transplanting, direct sowing is the best option. Direct sow about three weeks before the last spring frost for summer crop, or after the heat of summer for a fall crop. Sow seeds on the surface of the soil in rows 12-18″ apart, thinning to 9-12″ apart as soon the seedlings appear. Germination should take place within 10 days. For a continuous supply of fresh leaves, plant a new crop every 2 weeks until the heat of summer, when chervil will no longer grow well. Winter chervil adapts well as a container plant, and can survive temperatures below freezing with some protection.
Growing: Keep the soil evenly moist, but avoid getting the leaves wet to prevent disease. Cut back the plant often for a longer harvest and to prevent it from going to seed, which often happens in hot weather.
Harvesting: Harvest leaves as needed, gathering the outer leaves first for best flavor. Though the flowers are edible, their development causes the leaves to grow bitter. Fresh chervil is best added to hot food at the last minute, since it soon loses its flavor with heat. The leaves will keep in the refrigerator for two or three days; drying or freezing are not recommended, since the delicate flavor is soon lost.
Seed Saving: Gather the seed heads individually as soon as they begin to dry on the stem. Since they shatter easily, check them often. Spread the heads out to dry in a protected location out of direct sunlight; thresh out the seeds. Store the seeds in a cool, dry place; for best germination, use the seed in the next growing season.
Common Names: Garden Chervil, French Parsley
Latin Name: Anthriscus cerefolium
Species Origin: Caucasus Mountains
Type: Open Pollinated, Heirloom, Cool Season
Life Cycle: Annual
USDA Zones: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Seeds per Ounce: 2,000
Planting Method: Direct Sow
Sunlight: Full Sun, Part Sun
Height: 20 Inches
Bloom Season: Blooms Late Spring, Blooms Early Summer
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