Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) is a delicate annual herb related to parsley. Sometimes called garden chervil, it is used to season mild-flavoured dishes and is a constituent of the French herb mixture fines herbes.
A member of the Apiaceae, chervil is native to the Caucasus but was spread by the Romans through most of Europe, where it is now naturalised.
The plants grow to 40-70 cm, with tripinnate leaves that may be curly. The small white flowers form small umbels, 2.5-5 cm across. The fruit is about 1 cm long, oblong-ovoid with a slender, ridged beak.
Another type of chervil is grown as a root vegetable, sometimes called turnip rooted chervil or tuberous-rooted chervil. This type of chervil produces much thicker roots than types cultivated for their leaves. It was a popular vegetable in the 19th century. Now virtually forgotten in Britain and the United States, root chervil is still used in French cuisine, in soups or stews.
Sometimes referred to as "gourmet's parsley", chervil is used to season poultry, seafood, and young vegetables. It is particularly popular in France, where it is added to omelettes, salads and soups. More delicate than parsley, it has a faint taste of liquorice.
Chervil is sometimes used to repel slugs.
Chervil had various traditional uses. Pregnant women were bathed in an infusion of it; a lotion of it was used as a skin cleanser; and it was used medicinally as a blood purifier. It was also claimed to be useful as a digestive aid, for lowering high blood pressure, and, infused with vinegar, for curing hiccups.
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