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Chervil

 

Synonyms: garden chervil, chervil leaf

botanical name: Anthriscus cerefolium


Kerbel

 

The wild form of chervil originated in south-east Europe and south-west Asia. It probably reached Europe in the Middle Ages with the Romans.

 

The chervil plant is widespread today and is cultivated in East Asia, North and South America, Europe and the Mediterranean region.

 

There is hardly any trade with the fresh herb. Therefore, it is grown on a large scale particularly in those areas where it is used in abundance, such as in France and Belgium.

 

Availability

Chervil can be harvested as early as 6-8 weeks after it has been sown. It is sold from April into October, and thereafter in some places from greenhouse cultivation.

 

As the freshly cut herb quickly wilts, it is sold in some shops as small potted plants. Chervil can easily be grown in one's own herb garden for domestic use.

 

In addition chervil is sold deep-frozen or dried.

 

Appearance, taste, characteristics

The annual chervil plant belongs to the family of umbellifers. The parsley-like herb has delicate, pinnate, shiny light-green leaves and can be up to 70 cm tall.

 

The leaves sit on thin, angularly sulcate stems. Like parsley, there are curly-leaved and smooth-leaved varieties.

 

In the period of inflorescence from May to August, small, inconspicuous white umbels develop on the stems, from which black schizocarps later mature. These are of no importance for seasoning, however.

 

It is the fresh chervil leaves that are harvested. They smell sweetly aromatic and have a pleasantly spicy, anise-like taste. Chervil loses its aroma to a great extent when it dries.

 

Ingredients

Fresh chervil leaves contain about 0.3-0.9% essential oil, the chief components being estragole at 60-80% and allyl dimethoxybenzene and undecan.

 

Chervil also contains flavonoids.

 

Harmful substances

Based on animal experiments, the estragole contained in chervil is suspected of being harmful to health; it is not known whether it is harmful to human beings in large doses.

 

Chervil can be used without hesitation as a seasoning, however, as normally only small amounts are used and the amount of estragole ingested is negligible.

 

Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions

Young chervil leaves from plants that are maximally 20-30 cm high offer the best quality. They are particularly tender and aromatic. When the buds appear, the herb loses much of this aroma and it should therefore be harvested before the inflorescence begins.

 

Freshly cut chervil can be kept in the refrigerator for several days if it is set in a glass of water or packed in a plastic bag.

 

It can also be frozen with no problem, but drying the leaves is not advised, as the aroma is lost to a great extent.

 

Presumed effect on health

The spicy flavour of chervil stimulates the production of gastric juices and bile, and thus a digestive effect is attributed to the herb.

 

Natural medicine also considers chervil to be a diuretic and to support the metabolism. Earlier, it was one of the so-called fasting herbs, which were considered to have a blood-purifying effect. Even today it is still recommended as a suitable spring therapy.

 

Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation

Chervil is sold fresh, dried or frozen. It tastes best when it is used fresh; dried goods have lost the greater part of their flavour and aroma.

 

Chervil is used especially in French and English cuisine. In Belgium and the Netherlands chervil soup has a long tradition.

 

The herb's fine aroma is suited to every herbal sauce and lends a delicious taste to clear broths and soups. Chervil is particularly aromatic in scrambled eggs, omelettes and warm potato salad. It tastes good with fish and meat dishes, especially lamb, poultry and veal.

 

Chervil is used to enhance sauces, curd cheese, yogurt, mayonnaise and fresh salads. In addition is goes well with many vegetables such as kohlrabi, green beans, peas, carrots, broad beans, tomatoes, Savoy cabbage and spinach.

 

Try making herb butter with chervil, or use it directly as a topping for buttered bread.

 

Seasoning tip

Chervil is sensitive to heat and should not be cooked with foods. It is best to strew the chopped fresh herb over the finished dish. For chervil soup as well, only the stems are cooked, and the leaves are stirred in at the end.

 

Fresh chervil can be used generously. It combines well with parsley, tarragon and saffron. It also goes well with dill, basil, cress, mint, chives, mustard and hyssop.

 

Miscellaneous

Do not collect any wild-growing herb, because it is easily confused with various poisonous plants, such as hemlock (Conium maculatum), rough chervil (Chaerophyllum temulum), and fool's parsley (Aethusa cynapium).

 

 

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