Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Chervil ‘is a wonderful herb to grow’

Green-fingered enthusiasts who take advantage of their greenhouse to grow plants for eating would be well advised not to overlook the many benefits herbs can offer.

Not only are these a convenient thing to have fresh quantities of at hand, they can also be very pretty – and they really add to the aesthetic appeal of a greenhouse when taken care of.

In an article for the national newspaper the Guardian across the pond in the UK, former presenter of the Gardeners World television show and garden writer Alys Fowler claimed that chervil in particular is known in some circles as a gourmet herb.

She went on to suggest that this may be one of the many reasons it is not as commonplace as it might be – noting that it is certainly not as ubiquitous on superstore shelves as its cousin parsley.

The expert acknowledged that she had all but forgotten about the plant herself – but happily, it came back to her anyway.

A lax attitude to deadheading meant that it self-seeded in the shadier corners of her green space anyway – just in time to be picked for autumn.

Chervil – alternatively known by its Latin binominal name of Anthriscus cerefolium – certainly looks very fine. Ms Fowler likened it to a pale and lacy version of parsley, characterised by its dainty, white flowers.

As a member of the Apiaceae family of aromatic plants, it originated in Caucasus – a region on the border of Europe and Asia. Historically, it was spread throughout most of Europe by the Romans, where it has now become naturalised.

It can grow between lengths of 16 and 28 inches – and features tripinnate leaves that can become curly. The small flowers it produces can reach between one or two inches across. The fruit it produces is oblong-ovoid with a slender, ridged beak and typically only about one cm long.

Ms Fowler underlined the fact that it does not always perform very well in the sun – adding that it runs straight to seed if it sees even half an hour's worth of afternoon sunlight at the height of summer.

"Unless you can offer a particularly damp and shady spot, wait to sow until early autumn, by which I mean right now," the expert commented, adding: "The soil [will have to be] warm and wet, [when] there is still enough sun to awaken it from its sleepy start, but it is not so strong as to upset it."

However, when it comes to overwintering the plant, Ms Fowler explained that it will be requiring a sheltered spot that is still relatively well warmed by afternoon sun. She said that it should be ok without protection in mild winters, but a cloche or fleece will make sure that no growth is lost.

"If you are growing it in a pot, use a 'long tom' with a good depth (at least 15 cm), because chervil has a long, thin taproot and resents hitting the base of the container," she advised, adding: "The lee of a sheltered wall, up against the house or in a cold frame or cool porch should all keep the plants warm enough."