Chervil – Herb of the Month

by Maryann Readal

chervil plantChervil, Anthriscus cerefolium, is similar to parsley but has a milder, anise flavor. It is sometimes called French parsley or garden parsley. The Romans named it cherifoliu, the ‘cheri’ part meaning delight and the ‘folium’ part meaning leaves—the joy of leaves.

Chervil is important in French cuisine, where it is an ingredient in classic sauces such as béarnaise and ravigote. These sauces pair well with fish, veal, or chicken. Along with parsley, chives, and tarragon, chervil is in the French herb combination, herbes fines. Chervil is better used fresh as it loses its flavor when dried. It should be added at the end of cooking to get the most out of its flavor. It is a good addition to omelets and salads and can be sprinkled over fresh fruit. Chervil makes a flavorful and colorful butter. The leaves and flowers can be used to flavor vinegar.

Chervil is an annual herb that prefers moist earth and the coolness of spring. In warmer areas, it will be a winter herb. It produces long, dark brown seeds that easily germinate, and the plant can reseed. Because of its taproot, however, chervil does not transplant well. It is recommended to sow successive plantings to have a continuous supply of the herb. You just about have to grow chervil yourself if you want to use it in your cooking because it is not an herb commonly found in the fresh herb section of your supermarket. You would more likely find it in a farmer’s market.chervil seed - wikimedia commons 

Chervil is in the Apiaceae family, the same family as carrots, parsley, and dill. It has the same feathery green foliage as the other members of this family, and these lacey leaves are the prized part of this herb. The plant produces flower stalks that can grow to about two feet and are topped with umbels of tiny, white flowers. Gardeners use chervil to bait slugs so that they do not bother their vegetables. 

Chervil is native to the Caucasus region of Europe and Asia. It has been used for food as well as for medicine for a very long time. It was considered a warm herb by early herbalists and was used in medicinal applications for that reason. The ancient Greeks used chervil to create healing spring tonics and herbalists used it to cure digestive problems. Many early herbalists wrote about chervil. Pliny the Elder (23-79 CE) said that the seed in vinegar would stop hiccups. He and Nicolas Culpeper, a 17th-century herbalist, believed that, as Culpeper put it “[it] does much to please and warm old and cold stomach.” chervilDuring the Middle Ages, chervil was used to treat eye inflammations, smooth skin wrinkles, combat the plague, and treat blood clots. John Parkinson (1567-1650), a British botanist and herbalist, recommended that the green seeds be added to herb salads dressed with oil and vinegar “to comfort the cold stomach of the aged.” In the same period, John Gerard (1545-1612), a botanist and herbalist, wrote that the roots, “first boiled; which is very good for old people that are dull and without courage: it rejoiceth and comforteth the heart, and increaseth their lust and strength.” Chervil seems to have been an herb used for the elderly, as both a tonic and to boost brain health. Chervil was also used as a blood purifier, a diuretic, and to lower blood pressure (Chevallier, 2000).

Not much modern research has been done on the medicinal effects of chervil. However, a recent report in the journal Pharmaceuticals concludes that chervil holds promise for use in anti-cancer and antimicrobial treatments (Stojković, 2021).

In the practice of some earth religions, chervil is considered to be the herb of immortality. It is believed that when used as incense, it can help bring one in touch with one’s higher self and inner spirit. 

magi-myrrhIt is thought that the Romans brought chervil to France and England. It was one of the nine sacred herbs of the Anglo-Saxons of early England. The use of chervil has roots in early Christianity. The Romans called this herb ‘myrrhis’ because the smell and taste of the essential oil were reminiscent of the oil of myrrh, which was one of the gifts brought by the Maji to the Christ child in Bethlehem. Because of this, early Christians believed that chervil symbolized birth and new life. 

It is the custom in some European countries today to serve chervil soup on Holy (Maundy) Thursday. The Germans serve chervil soup on Holy Thursday, or as they call it, Gründonnerstag (Green Thursday), although it is thought that the word grün is derived from the word greinen, which means to weep, giving added significance to why the soup is served on Holy Thursday.

German Chervil Soup

4 hard-boiled eggs

2 bunches of chervil

2 spring onions

1 tablespoon butter

13-1/2 fluid oz. chicken stock 

8-1/2 fluid oz. cream 

1/2 cup crème fraiche

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 pinch sugar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 egg yolks beaten

Wash and dry the chervil, remove stems and chop finely, reserving a few stems for garnish.   Wash and slice the spring onions. Lightly fry the spring onions in the butter, then add the broth, cream, and crème fraiche and allow to come to the boil briefly. Season with salt, pepper, sugar, and lemon juice. Add the chopped chervil and keep warm without allowing the soup to boil.

Whisk in the egg yolks into the slightly cooled soup. Pour the soup into individual dishes.

Slice the hard boiled eggs and place them in the center of the soup. Sprinkle remaining chervil over the soup and serve.

(Recipe from German Foods https://germanfoods.org/recipes/chervil-soup/)

 

For more information and recipes using chervil, visit The Herb Society of America’s Herb of the Month web page, https://www.herbsociety.org/hsa-learn/herb-of-the-month.html

Photo Credits: 1) Chervil plant (Maryann Readal); 2) Chervil seed (Elric04, Creative Commons License); 3) Chervil flowers (CC BY-SA 3.0, Creative Commons License); 4) Adoration of the Magi by Bernardino Luini (Dennis Jarvis, Creative Commons License) (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en)

References

Behr, Edward. 1986. Chervil: One of the best and least appreciated herbs. Available at https://artofeating.com/chervil/. Accessed March 15, 2021.

Chevallier, Andrew. 2000. Encyclopedia of herbal medicine. London, Dorling Kindersley.

Crocker, Pat. 2018. Herbalist’s kitchen: Cooking and healing with herbs. New York: Sterling Epicure.

Gordon, Leslie. 1980. A country herbal. New York: W. H. Smith.

Hayes, Elizabeth.1961. Spices and herbs around the world. New York: Doubleday.

Stojković, Dejan et at. Jan 2021. Extract of herba Anthrisci cerefolii: Chemical profiling and insights into its anti-glioblastoma and antimicrobial mechanism of actions. Pharmaceuticals. 14 (1). Available from EBSCOhost. Accessed March 16, 2021.

Vyas, A. et al. 2012. Chervil: a multifunctional miraculous nutritional herb. Asian Journal of Plant Sciences, 11 (4): 163-170. Available from EBSCOhost. Accessed March 12, 2021.

Medicinal Disclaimer: It is the policy of The Herb Society of America, Inc. not to advise or recommend herbs for medicinal or health use. This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered as a recommendation or an endorsement of any particular medical or health treatment. Please consult a health care provider before pursuing any herbal treatments.


Maryann is the Secretary of The Herb Society of America and a Texas Master Gardener. She is a member of The Society’s Texas Thyme Unit in Huntsville, TX. She gardens among the pines in the Piney Woods of East Texas.

Visit the WRHS Rose Garden

Visit the WRHS Rose Garden

“Love, which, in concert with Abstinence, established Faith, and which, along with Patience, builds up Chastity, is like the columns that sustain the four corners of a house. For it was that same Love which planted a glorious garden redolent with precious herbs and noble flowers–roses and lilies–which breathed forth a wondrous fragrance, that garden on which the true Solomon was accustomed to feast his eyes.” – Hildegard of Bingen

Untitled design (94)By Beth Schreibman-Gehring, Chairman of Education for The Western Reserve Herb Society unit of The Herb Society of America

My husband says I seem to wake up craving roses and sleep dreaming of them. Maybe it’s because the scent and flavor of the beautiful historic and fragrant roses in my gardens bring back so many of my best memories. They remind me of my father and the happy times that I spent with him in his rose gardens. Or maybe it’s because the magic spell of the roses helps my skin stay happy and smooth and my heart stay open and gentle.

The entire Western Reserve Herb Society (WRHS) herb garden at the Cleveland Botanical Garden is glorious, but Historic Rose Gardens are overwhelming. When they bloom, it is feast for all the senses. I spend about two weeks harvesting and drying rose petals from them to make wonderful products for WRHS Herb Fair which will be held at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens on October 12. 2019.

“The lesson I have thoroughly learnt, and wish to pass on to others, is to know the enduring happiness that the love of a garden gives.” — Gertrude Jekyll

Judy Kutina, Gwen Zeitz, Jane CavanaughThe Historic Rose Gardens of the Western Reserve Herb Society cannot ever be celebrated without mention of the three beloved Rosarians and Master gardeners who still lovingly tend the beautiful roses as they have for so many years. Judy Kutina, Gwen Zeitz and Jane Cavanaugh can still be found in the garden every week caring for this extraordinary and historically relevant collection of roses, with the help of WRHS Unit and current Rose garden chair Kathleen Hale, and other Western Reserve Herb Society gardeners.

“In 2012, the WRHS Historic Rose Garden became the proud recipient of the Certification of the Historic Rose Collection from the Herb Society of America. This rose garden was the first rose collection in the United States to receive this recognition. Starting with Blanche Harvey, who researched and planted some of the most cherished historic roses in the collection, Judy Kutina, Section Chair along with Jean Ingalls (Past Chair) and the members of their committee, (Jane Cavanaugh, Gwen Zeitz, Toni Becker, Debra Brink and Nancy Gustafson) documented the historic authenticity of each rose. A bronze plaque was placed in the historic rose collection on June 5th, 2012, commemorating this honor, placing the Collection in the elite company of the National herb Garden in Washington DC and the Chicago Botanical Garden.” — “50 seasons of growing- The Western Reserve Herb Society Herb Garden 1969- 2019″

IMG_9590Receiving this certification was a four-year project, meaning that all of the renovating, documentation identification and research began four years before the actual certification was granted.

Judy, Gwen and Jane and late member Jean Ingalls, were the four Western Reserve Herb Society members who were instrumental in ensuring that the garden met every classification needed for this special certification.

When it comes to the roses in the WRHS garden, we all have favorites. Mine is the beautiful and ancient Rosa gallica officinalis, more commonly known as Apothecary’s Rose, also known as the Red Rose of Lancaster.

The Apothecary’s Rose is just a joy, a rose older than the Renaissance and used for medicinal purposes during Medieval times. It is extraordinarily beautiful to see and smell when blooming. Its intense, deep pink-to-light red coloring and luscious old rose fragrance make it a must in any herbalist’s garden.

I have always found it easy to grow, which may be the source of its longevity and popularity. It only blooms once in a season, but it’s a generous rose. Mine bloomed in my northeast Ohio garden for more than a month. I return to it time and again to make rosewaters, jams and jellies.

Untitled design (97)It gives me a real thrill of connection to my medieval sisters to be able to use this ancient rose to infuse into my rose honey and other rose preparations. I find rose-infused honey to be ever so helpful when I have a sore or scratchy throat and although you can buy it, it is just so easy to make. Stirred into a cup of hot water, or simply taken by the spoonful, the anti-inflammatory properties of the rose petals and the antibacterial properties of the honey seem to relieve any irritation quickly.

Rose Petal Honey
6 cups fresh rose petals (4 cups dried)
2 cups honey, room temperature
1-quart glass jar with lid

Add petals to the jar until half full and firmly packed. Pour honey over rose petals and stir to remove air pockets. Cap the jar tightly. After several hours stir petals and honey. (I use chopsticks for this.) Add more rose petals and stir. Leave the jar in a warm place for about two weeks, stirring from time to time.

After two to four weeks, warm the jar in a pot of hot water (do not boil). Strain the warmed honey through a cheesecloth into a clean jar. Press the rose petals to remove all honey. Cap the jar and enjoy on toast, over yogurt, with ice cream and in cocktails.

I use rose water in my drinks consistently because I believe that it is so helpful for hydrating the skin from the inside out.

I also spray rose hydrosol (a fancy name for rosewater) on my skin every morning after my shower to moisturize my aging skin. I spent way too much time in the sun without sunscreen as a teenager and I have noticed that this daily spritzing with rosewater seems to have softened some of my wrinkles as well as tightens my pores.


I’d love to know some of your favorite uses for your favorite roses, so please feel free to share them with me in the comments.

May everything be coming up roses for you all summer long!