I always thought that chervil was a delicate, shade-loving herb in the carrot family, which it is.
The name chervil can also refer to a root vegetable from the same family. Digging even deeper,
I learned that the same name can also refer to several other plants, but we're going to focus on the first two. For now.
The name chervil is probably so popular because it comes to us from the Ancient Greek words for "leaves of joy". How's that for a garden addition? Makes me want to grow them just for that. Let's see if we'll want to grow them for other reasons, as well.
Chervil, the herb
Chervil, the herb, is also known as French parsley or garden chervil, is more delicate than parsley, with a light licorice flavor. Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) is used along with chives, parsley, and tarragon to make fines herbes and it is commonly used to season poultry, seafood, soups, and sauces.
These plants grow 12-30" tall and readily reseed an area, left on their own. Like other umbellifers, chervil plants have hollow, ribbed stems, divided leaves, long, sheathed petioles (leaf stems), and flat seeds. Edible chervil flowers attract many beneficial insects, so these plants are commonly included in butterfly gardens and tea gardens.
Chervil prefers partial shade in areas where temperatures are under 65°F and full shade in areas that go above 80°F, making chervil a nice addition to stumperies and shade gardens.
Chervil can be grown in USDA Hardiness Zones 5-9 when temperatures are above 60°F. Chervil does not transplant well, due to its taproot, so seeds should be planted in place. This is a cool season crop that needs moisture. Seeds should be planted 1" deep and 6-12" apart. In 10-14 days, you should see signs of life. In 45 days or so, your chervil will reach harvestable size.
Slugs and snails will be your biggest problem
Chervil, the root vegetable
Native to middle- and southeastern Europe, this root vegetable goes by several names: bulbous chervil, parsnip chervil, tuberous-rooted chervil, and turnip-rooted chervil. Popular in Europe in the 19th century, these biennial plants grow very much like their cousins, the carrots. Instead of carrot's orange taproot, bulbous chervil (Chaerophyllum bulbosum) looks like stubby, dark grey carrots with yellowish-white flesh. Eaten raw, these tubers are said to taste similar to radishes. Once cooked, they are described as a cross between potatoes and chestnuts, with just a hint of celery and parsnip. [I haven't had them yet.] These roots are left in cold storage for a few months for starches to be converted into sugars.
Being a member of the carrot family, bulbous chervil plants produce large flower clusters that attract many beneficial insects, such as hoverflies.
Bulbous chervil grows best in loose, fertile soil that is kept moderately moist. Seeds need to be vernalized (exposed to cold) to germinate properly. Because of this, seeds are usually planted 2" apart in autumn. As temperatures rise, in spring, germination should occur.
Initial growth is a rosette of leaves close to the ground, followed by stems that can grow 2-6' tall. Roots are harvested when leaves start turning brown, usually in late summer. These are slow-growing plants that take 9-10 months to reach maturity.
Pests of bulbous chervil include aphids, carrot root flies, and voles. Diseases are similar for carrots and parsnips, with celery mosaic virus and root rots being the most common.
How about adding some leaves of joy to your garden this year?
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!
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