What is chervil?
The delicate, aniseed flavour of chervil complements scrambled eggs and adds another dimension when scattered on a chilled green pea and cucumber soup or a classic potato and leek soup.
Native to Eastern Europe and Western Asia, Chervil has been valued for its medicinal properties. The ancient Romans introduced it to Europe and the ancient Greeks mixed chervil with watercress and dandelion to make a rejuvenating tonic. A basket of chervil seeds was even found in the tomb of King Tutankhamen, the 18th century BC Egyptian pharaoh.
In Australia, fresh chervil is usually sold in bunches with the roots attached. It is an aromatic herb that has delicate green leaves, fine stems and a mild aniseed flavour. It looks similar to flat leaf parsley but with finer leaves.
Chervil is also available dried, but the delicate flavour is slightly decreased. The flavour is also reduced when heated, so chervil should be added to dishes near the end of the cooking process.
Why chervil is good to eat
- Chervil is a good source of vitamins A (important for growth and development and the maintenance of your immune system) and C (needed for the growth and repair of tissues in the body).
- It also contains minerals such as potassium (which helps to regulate blood pressure), manganese (involved in the regulation of brain and nerve function) and calcium (involved in the regulation of muscle, heart and nerve function and keeping bones strong).
- Chervil contains dietary fibre, which is important for a healthy bowel.
- Energy – 100 g of dried chervil supplies 962 kJ.
How are they grown and harvested?
Chervil plants are best suited to a cool and moist location and grow 30–45 cm tall. Warmer conditions cause the plant to go to seed (‘bolt’).
Chervil seeds sprout within two weeks of sowing and the leaves can be picked six to eight weeks after planting. Regularly picking the leaves helps to prevent the plant from bolting. Harvest the plant by pinching or cutting off the stems. If your chervil plants do bolt, you can use the seeds to produce new plants.
Chervil can be grown in pots and in window boxes.
Choose chervil with green, fresh-looking leaves. Avoid chervil with brown, reddish or wilted leaves.
How to store and keep chervil
Store washed chervil in a paper-lined plastic bag in the crisper section of your fridge. It will keep for up to a week if stored this way.
How to use
- Make a chervil tart – add chervil leaves to a mixture of chervil stems, chopped onion and simmered cream, then blend, whisk in eggs and grated nutmeg, pour the mixture into a shortcrust pastry case and bake until set.
- Enjoy a simple winter salad – mix segments of blood oranges with finely sliced fennel bulbs and chervil leaves, then drizzle with oil and vinegar, season with salt and pepper and toss before serving.
- Serve an easy side dish – combine minced shallots, lemon juice and salt and add to cooked new potatoes, then add butter, chopped fresh chervil and stir to combine.
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Better Health Channel
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