Herb of the Month: Chervil
Our July herb of the month is Chervil, often described as herb for the connoisseur of fine flavours and fragrances. In appearance, it resembles flat-leaved parsley, but its leaves are more finely dissected and paler green. Its aroma and taste suggest the flavours of tarragon and fennel, although it’s much less potent than the latter.
Chervil (Anthriscus Cerefolium) is an annual or biennial herb, naturalised throughout Europe in the Apiaceae family. Once planted it self seeds freely and is a welcome green herb in the early Spring, Summer and late Autumn. It will happily grow in dappled shade as well as in sunny areas of the garden, preferring well-drained soil. A basket of chervil seeds was found in Tutankhamen’s tomb, indicating how valued it was by the ancient Egyptians. It is a traditional spring tonic herb throughout Europe, traditionally taken for its restorative properties on Maundy Thursday after the Lenten fasting. It is rather underutilised these days both as a culinary and a medicinal herb as it has wonderful health benefits and a very fine flavour.
Chervil is excellent for settling the digestion, calming wind and cramping. It is a mild diuretic that can help flush out excess acid from the system and is traditionally viewed as a ‘blood purifier’ and can help maintain a healthy blood pressure. The juice of the fresh plant is applied to wounds, abscesses and eczema. Julian Barker recommends it for helping to dry up the breast milk when a baby is being weaned and for balancing the hormones after childbearing and breastfeeding. It is also a good liver and gall bladder herb, encouraging healthy bile flow. It can also help to dry up chronic catarrh. The raw leaves are full of vitamin C; carotene, iron and magnesium so are a valuable source of micronutrients. Some people feel it is as effective as fresh coriander leaf at flushing heavy metals out of the body. An infusion or facemask of chervil is apparently good for keeping the face supple, young and free of wrinkles.
Chervil is best used fresh. It is a wonderful addition to salads and sandwiches, combining well with fish or chicken. It is lovely added into scrambled eggs or omelettes, added alongside to tomato salads with some basil, or in potato salads. It can also be added to soups and stews.
Carrot and Chervil Soup
- Chop 250 g carrots and sauté in a little butter or olive oil
- Add 1 litre of stock and some seasoning and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Purée then add a cup of chopped chervil and bring back to the boil before serving.
- Garnish with more chopped chervil and a little cream if desired