February 25, 2021
As volunteer master gardeners took a walk-about around the garden this week to access freeze damage to our plants, something unexpected caught our eye. Our lovely, delicate little chervil plants had not only survived the freeze but appeared to be just as perky and robust as before. Left unprotected during the extreme cold event, they seemed to be welcoming us back into the otherwise “brown” garden.
Chervil, Anthriscus cerefolium, is a member of the carrot family. (Coincidentally, just a few steps down from our chervil plant, a tiny little carrot sprig had survived, as well.) Chervil is an annual herb that grows best in cooler weather. In our Zone 8 climate, it succumbs to the sweltering summer heat. Seeds can be sown in place in early spring and again in fall. Some of our local garden centers already have 4” pots in stock, as well.
The taste of chervil can be described as parsley-like with a hint of myrrh or anise. You may know it as one of the herbs that make up the traditional French herbal spice mixture fines herbs. Fresh chervil wilts easily, so harvesting as close to preparation time as possible is advised. Use it generously in salads, cream soups, with eggs and salmon and added at the last minute to many classic sauces.
In 2014, we discovered a recipe that earned the “super star” award in our cookbook, ‘A Year on the Plate’. Every Herb Pesto received a perfect score from our tasting committee. Most members agreed that the small amount of chervil (1 tablespoon) called for in the recipe gave it a refreshing lift.
Chervil grows best in a location with morning or filtered sun and rich, slightly moist soil. At Raincatcher’s, we planted it on the south end of our Hügelkultur bed where it receives filtered shade from the red oak tree. We also have a clump growing in the sensory garden where it is thriving in morning sun and afternoon shade.
A graceful clump of chervil growing in your garden is something to be celebrated. Its feathery, pale green foliage with tiny white flower clusters that reach 3 inches across is a charming plant for the fall, winter or spring garden. Our vote is for all three!