It is used as a natural spice additive for seasoning vegetables, seafood, poultry, etc. It is widely used in various French cuisines. In fact, many people use it as parsley substitute. This delicate annual herb grows up to a height of 40-70 cm. Its shapely ferny leaves and small white flowers look beautiful and decorates the herb garden.
This is because transplantation of the seedling is a bit of a hassle as it has a long taproot. It can be grown both indoors as well as outdoors. There are certain aspects that have to be kept in mind while growing chervil.
Chervil should be planted in a semi-shaded location as it does not require sunlight throughout the day. In fact, it cannot even tolerate a very high summer temperature. Therefore, if you are living in a hot zone, then it has to be shifted to a shaded area when the temperature is at its peak. In that case, growing chervil in pots will be easier for you.
This plant grows well in rich and moist soil. Since you are going to harvest the leaves from this plant, nitrogen rich soil is more preferable for it. However, it can be grown in a poor soil condition as well, provided it is well-drained.
Sowing the Seeds
The ideal time for planting summer chervil is early part of spring. On the other hand, if you want winter chervil, you should sow it in late summer. For faster seed germination, soak the seeds in water for 24 hours before sowing. These are very small in size and it should be placed at the top of the soil where high amount of nutrients are present.
Dig a hole of ⅛ inch in the soil and put the seed into it. You may or may not cover it with soil. As the size of the plant is small, a gap of 6 inches between two seeds is enough. Seeds should be planted in blocks or rows. The advantage of densely grown crop is, they support each other to stay upright and prevent unwanted growth of weeds in the soil.
The planted seeds usually sprout within 2-3 weeks. The seedlings do not require any special care. You just have to water them regularly especially in hot weather conditions so that the soil does not dry up too much. Otherwise, the plant may bolt and the flavor of the leaves will change.
If you cannot water it regularly on your own, you must make arrangements for sprinkler system so that it receives water on time and maintains the soil moisture. As they grow, if you find that the herbs are overly crowded, then you can thin them a bit. Check out the soil for weed growth and remove them from time to time.
Harvesting Chervil Leaves
Chervil leaves can be harvested after 8 weeks. Remove the leaves and twigs from the outer part of the plant before it starts blooming. You must harvest young and bright green leaves from the plants for culinary uses. The mature leaves that have turned purple lose their unique flavor and should not be harvested.
Once little, white flowers appear, you can still harvest leaves from it but you have to selectively choose the new, tender leaves from the matured ones. During this time, pinch off the heads of the dead flowers after frequent interval of time.
You can keep a few flowers untouched and let them reseed themselves for the next season. Or else, you can harvest some seeds from the blooms in August and sow them again next year.
While using chervil for seasoning dishes, make sure that the finely chopped leaves are added just before serving. If it is cooked, then its natural flavor will be lost. You should not use dried chervil leaves for garnishing for the same reason.