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How to Grow Chervil:  The Unboring Parsley

  • Bob Styer
  • Herbs
Fresh Green Chervil Leaves On A Black Background.

If you like growing herbs, have you ever looked into how to grow chervil?  Look no further because we’ve got you covered!  This article gives you all the details on how to grow chervil from seed.

You can buy chervil in many larger supermarkets, but why? This staple of French cuisine is so easy to grow it’s not worth the expense.

Learning how to harvest chervil only takes a minute; it’s as easy as parsley.  Let’s get into this tasty herb!

What is Chervil?

This biennial herb has a unique subtle flavor that mixes pepper, sweet, and anise.  During its second year, chervil spends its energy flowering and producing seeds.  Because of this, chervil growing in its second year has less flavor.

A necessary part of French cooking, chervil is part of the “fines herbes.”  The other members are parsley, tarragon, and chives.

People often confuse chervil and flat-leaf parsley because of their similar appearance.  The similarity is so close that chervil has another name: French parsley.  The taste, though, is a step up from parsley.

Like parsley, chervil is versatile and goes with fish, chicken, vegetables, stews, soups, sauces, and salads.  Add the herb near the end of cooking, or it will lose flavor.

Would you like to learn about other herbs? Check out our post “The Complete Guides to Growing Culinary Herbs” for links to those articles.

Images Showing the Similarity of Chervil and Flat-leaf Parsley

A single branch with green chervil leaves
Chervil leaves
A single branch of green flat leaf parsley leaves.
Flat-leaf parsley leaves

What Are the Types of Chervil?

Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) has two types:

  • Vertissimo.  Also known as flat chervil, it has flat, shiny green leaves and resembles parsley.
  • Crispum.  Also known as curly chervil, this type has an even subtler flavor and curlier leaves.

Sometimes chervil is mistaken for sweet cicely or wild chervil (also known as cow parsley).  But these plants aren’t even the same species as chervil.

The flower head of chervil, showing white flowers., from chervil grown from seeds.
A chervil head of white flowers

Preparing the Soil

Pick a partially shady site since chervil bolts early if it gets too hot.  Use a garden shade cloth to protect the plants if an area with partial shade isn’t available.

The soil should be well-drained and fertile with a pH of 6.5 – 7.0.  Mix the top six inches of soil with compost to improve fertility and drainage.

Do you need more information about soil and compost? See our articles “Testing Garden Soil and How to Make Improvements,” and “How to Make Compost at Home.”

How to Grow Chervil from Seeds

To start seeds early, plant them indoors at least two months before the last spring frost.

  • Soak the seeds for 24 hours before planting.
  • Fill peat pots or trays with potting mix.
  • Sow the seeds so there are 2 – 4 in each container, 1/8 inch deep.
  • Keep the soil moist and warm.  The seeds will germinate in 10 – 14 days.
  • The containers should be near sunlight or under a grow light when the sprouts appear.
  • When the seedlings are a few inches tall, take them outside for a week to harden.

Chervil plants develop a long delicate tap root, so it doesn’t like transplanting.  That’s why starting the seeds in peat pots that can go right into the ground is essential.

Planting time for the seedlings or seeds is two weeks before the last spring frost.  Seedlings in peat pots can go straight into the garden.  Set the seeds 1/8 inch deep.

Potted seedlings can be ten inches apart.  Thin the sprouts from direct seeding to the same distance once they reach two inches high.

Sow chervil seeds anytime between March and August.  This means you can succession plant chervil every two weeks during the growing season for a continuous harvest. When the seedlings are 2 – 3 inches tall, thin them so they’re about ten inches apart.

The leaves will be ready for harvest in about six weeks. Seeds planted in late fall will germinate in early spring.  In Zones 8 – 10, chervil will have to grow in the winter because it won’t survive the summer heat.

Chervil Seeds to Help You Get Started

Gaea's Blessing Seeds - Chervil Seeds - Non-GMO Seeds with Easy to Follow Planting Instructions - Open-Pollinated French High Yield Heirloom 92% Germination Rate 1.6g
Gaea's Blessing Seeds - Chervil Seeds - Non-GMO Seeds with Easy to Follow Planting Instructions - Open-Pollinated French High Yield Heirloom 92% Germination Rate 1.6g
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Burpee Curled Chervil Seeds 775 seeds
Burpee Curled Chervil Seeds 775 seeds
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Chervil Seeds - 1 Gram - Heirloom
Chervil Seeds - 1 Gram - Heirloom
Price not available
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Caring for Chervil During the Growing Season

Keep the soil moist, especially during hot weather.  A light straw mulch will help to keep the soil cool and also hold moisture.  Don’t put too much mulch around the stems; the plants could develop root rot.

Chervil plants like cooler weather, so grow them in part shade if the sun gets sweltering.  Use garden shade curtains if you don’t have any other options.

Growing Chervil in Pots

It grows well in containers at least 8 inches wide and 12 inches deep (because of the tap root).  Growing chervil in pots makes it a perfect candidate for growing inside next to a window.

Chervil can get unhappy if it’s growing in potting mix too long.  So fill the pots with three parts of potting soil mixed with one part each of compost and perlite.  This will amend the potting soil so it has better fertility and drainage.

Use vermiculite instead of perlite if you prefer.  Straight potting soil is never good for pots because it gets too dense and doesn’t drain well.

Depending on the pot size, you might want to plant 5 – 10 seeds.  It isn’t that critical; plant more seeds or thin the seedlings as needed.

Get more information about potting plants at “Growing Vegetables in Containers.”

Pruning Chervil

This is easy to do.  If you’re harvesting leaves, the plants will grow fuller and bushier.  This also delays bolting so that you can harvest tasty leaves a little longer.

How to Harvest Chervil

Chervil is ready to harvest when the plants are a few inches tall.  Harvest the leaves as needed starting from the outer parts of the plant.  Please don’t take more than 1/3 of the leaves at once, or it will damage the plant.

Whole plants will be ready for harvest in 8 – 10 weeks.  Since chervil is an excellent self-seeder, allow some plants to flower and go to seed.  They’ll sprout next spring and save you from replanting them.  Once the plants flower, the leaves will become bitter, but the flowers are useful as a garnish.

How to Harvest Chervil Seeds

Chervil is a prolific self-seeder and doesn’t need replanting once established.

You can prevent self-seeding by cutting off the flower heads before they dry out.  You can collect the seeds once the heads dry out:

  • Place small paper bags over the seed heads and close them.
  • Cut off the heads and keep them sealed in the bags for about a week.
  • Shake the seed heads, and the seeds will fall into the bags.

Chervil seeds aren’t viable for long, so planting them no later than the following year is best.

Overwintering Chervil

Chervil prefers cool weather and will grow over the winter in warmer climates.  In these areas, plant chervil in the early winter or late fall to get a winter crop.

The leaves won’t be as flavorful if allowed to grow into the second year.  This is because the plant concentrates on flower and seed production.

Chervil can withstand light frost, but several frosts will kill the plants.  In areas with cold winters, it’s best to plant chervil as an annual.  Any seeds dropped in the fall will sprout next spring.

Storing Fresh Chervil

The best way to enjoy chervil is when it’s fresh.  It can stay in the refrigerator for a few days.  Freezing chervil allows it to store for up to six months.

Storing Chervil in the Fridge

  • Place the sprigs in a glass with a few inches of water and cover them with a plastic bag.
  • Wrap the sprigs with damp paper towels and put them in unsealed plastic bags.

How to Freeze Chervil

  • Wash the sprigs and pat them dry or use a salad spinner.  The sprigs should be completely dry, or they’ll stick together when they freeze.
  • Put a bunch of springs in a Ziploc freezer bag.  This is also an excellent way to freeze parsley.

Another method for freezing chervil is by using ice cube trays:

  • Chop the chervil into pieces.
  • Put the pieces into ice cube trays.
  • Top off the cells with water or olive oil.  Please don’t overfill the cells so that they’ll spill.
  • Freeze the chervil in the ice cube trays.
  • Once the cubes freeze, remove them and put them in freezer bags.  When it comes time to use the chervil for cooking, drop the cubes right into the cooking food.

Any frozen herbs aren’t useable as a garnish once they thaw;  they’re too limp.

How to Dry Chervil for Long-Term Storage

Please be aware that drying chervil causes it to lose much of its flavor.  This is because herbs like chervil, parsley, dill, and tarragon don’t have a lot of essential oils.

Rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage are examples of herbs high in essential oils.  These herbs are better for drying. Slow-drying methods like air drying cause a more significant loss of flavor.

If the herbs are dirty, rinse them with cool water, pat them dry, or use a salad spinner.  If any water remains on the herbs, they could mold or mildew when air drying.  Water droplets during high heat drying could cause the herbs to cook at the wet spots.

Air Drying Chervil

  • Cut the sprigs so you have a long enough stem to tie them in bunches.
  • Hang the bunches upside-down in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight.
  • Cover the bunches with paper bags.  Pop a few holes in the sides of the bags for airflow.  The bags will catch loose leaves and protect the herbs from dust.
  • The chervil leaves should be dry in about three weeks.
  • Strip the dried leaves from the stems.  The leaves aren’t dry enough if they don’t come off easily.

How to Dry Chervil in the Microwave

  • Place a single layer of chopped chives between two paper towels.
  • Microwave for one minute and remove any pieces that have dried.
  • Continue microwaving at 10-second intervals until all the pieces are dry.

Drying Chervil in the Oven

  • Remove groups of leaves from the stems so they can lay flat.
  • Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay the leaves in a single layer.
  • Set the oven for the lowest possible temperature, which can vary depending on the oven model.
  • Place the baking sheet in the oven for 1 – 2 hours until the leaves are crumbly.
  • Check the leaves while drying to ensure they don’t scorch or turn brown.

How to Dry Chervil in a Dehydrator

  • Line the dehydrator racks with parchment paper.
  • Remove bunches of leaves from the stems so they can lay flat in a single layer on the parchment paper.
  • Follow the dehydrator instructions for drying herbs.  They’re dry enough when they crumble to the touch.

Store the dried leaves whole in airtight containers or jars.  You can also grind dried leaves and store them the same way.  Remove any pieces of stems you find in the leaves.

Dried herbs will store for up to three years.  Keeping dried herbs in airtight containers doesn’t let them spoil.  They “go bad” because they lose most or all their flavor after a few years.  Dried herbs that have lost flavor aren’t harmful.

Chervil Companion Plants

  • Chervil flowers attract pollinators like butterflies and bees.
  • It also attracts beneficial insects like hoverflies and ladybugs.
  • It improves the growth and flavor of radishes, lettuce, and broccoli. Improving the flavor of radishes means that it makes them hotter!
  • Chervil, cilantro, and dill grow well together.  They also serve as a team to repel pests from other crops.
  • Repels ants and whiteflies.

For more information about companion plants, see our comprehensive “Companion Planting Chart.”

Products to Help With Pest Control

Garden Safe Brand Insecticidal Soap Insect Killer 32 Ounces, Ready-To-Use, For Organic Gardening, 2 Pack
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Pests for Chervil

Chervil rarely has problems with pests and disease, but here are a few that might cause problems.

Aphids

These pests are the bane of many plants.  A strong blast of water will remove aphids.  For a more permanent solution, spray them with neem oil or organic insecticidal soap.

Beneficial insects like ladybugs, hoverflies, and lacewings are all excellent predators of aphids.

Slugs and Snails

These voracious pests also destroy many plants and are easy to spot.  Here are a few ways to eliminate them:

  • If you’re up to it, they’re easy to remove by hand.
  • Spread diatomaceous earth (DE) around the plants.  The DE will cut the slugs and snails when they crawl on it.
  • Spray the plants with neem oil or organic insecticidal soap.
  • Lay out snail traps.

To help prevent the spread of plant diseases, disinfect hand tools.  Mix one tablespoon of bleach with ½ cup of alcohol and ¼ cup of water.  Rub this mixture on the hand tools before and after harvest.

We have more information about organic pest control. Please see our article “Top Natural Pest Control Methods You Can Use Now.”

Chervil Diseases

Damping Off

This fungal disease usually affects seeds and seedlings growing indoors.  The conditions for damping off include:

  • Overwatering on overcast days.  The lack of sunshine doesn’t allow the soil to dry out.
  • Crowded plants have restricted airflow.  Thin them out so they have ventilation.
  • High humidity provides moisture for the fungus.
  • Contaminated water or tools.

Affected seeds appear water-logged, soft, and rotting.  The seeds rarely sprout, but any that do sprout produce infected plants.  The fungus causes the roots to rot, and the plants grow stunted, turn yellow, and die.  Treatment includes:

  • Mix neem cake in the soil before planting.  This will kill soil-borne fungi.
  • The soil should be well-draining.  To improve the soil, see our article “Testing Garden Soil and How to Make Improvements.”
  • Don’t overcrowd the plants.  Thin them out so they have ventilation.
  • Water the plants at the roots and avoid overwatering.

Powdery Mildew

The tops of the leaves will appear as if they have a covering of white or gray talcum powder.  Hot days and cool nights during late summer encourage the growth of this fungus.  Infected plants will turn yellow and die.

Treatment and prevention methods include:

  • The soil should be well-draining.
  • Avoid overcrowding the plants.  Thin them out so they have ventilation.
  • Spray the plants with neem oil.  This is one of the most effective defenses against plant fungi.
  • Pull up and destroy any affected plants.

Downy Mildew

This fungus starts with pale spots or patches on the underside of the leaves.  It then also covers the tops of the leaves.  Sometimes it looks like a fuzzy grayish-purple growth on the leaves.  This fungus likes wet leaves and cool temperatures.

Treatment and prevention methods include:

  • Every 3 – 4 years, rotate the ground to other crops.  Don’t plant onion family (allium) crops in the infected ground.
  • The soil should be well-draining.
  • Avoid overcrowding the plants.
  • Spray the plants with neem oil.  This is one of the most effective defenses against plant fungi.
  • Pull up and destroy any affected plants.

Please see our article “How to Save Your Plants With Neem Oil and Neem Cake.” That will give you more information about protecting plants against fungi and pests.

Final Thoughts

We certainly have a wide variety of herbs growing in the world. Amazingly, they all have significant or subtle differences in flavor, even if they look alike.  Chervil and parsley are prime examples of this.  Since it’s so easy, try growing some today!

Last update on 2024-07-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Bob Styer

As a child, I hated gardening. That was mainly because Dad expected us to work in the garden every so often even though we thought play was more important. Over the years, though, I've developed a real appreciation for growing things. Whether you're growing plants for food or to enjoy their beauty, gardening can make your life better. Seize the moment!

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