The chervil is a native but almost forgotten, vegetable. We present the aromatic tuber and give tips on cultivating chervil beet.
A little-known root vegetable is chervil ( Chaerophyllum bulbosum ), which is prepared as a delicacy because of its rarity and very special taste. In this article, you will learn everything about chervil and growing it in your own garden.
Chervil: origin and characteristics
The chervil is a vegetable that has been almost forgotten today and is also known under the names of tuber chervil, black carrot, or tuberous calf fillet. In English, they are known as turnip-rooted chervil, in France as careful tubéreux. The bulbous chervil was first mentioned in writing in 1601. At that time it was already being offered at the Vienna vegetable markets.
The chervil is a member of the Umbelliferae ( Apiaceae ), just like the parsnip ( Pastinaca sativa ) and the carrot ( Daucus carota ). It is native to Central Europe, but there is also Siberian chervil that has yellow skin. The wild chervil is also found scattered on damp meadows in Germany and Austria. Our domestic vegetable chervil grows up to ten centimeters long, blunt, and thickened roots that are light brown on the outside and whitish-yellow on the inside.
The foliage is delicately pinnate and is reminiscent of carrot leaves. The taste of the raw chervil is parsnip-like, crunchy, and juicy. But only when cooked does it develop its unique, strong taste of chestnuts, which makes lovers’ hearts beat faster.
Cultivate chervil beet
The cultivation of chervil is not that easy, which is why it is not grown commercially. It has been preserved as a vegetable connoisseur at useful plant associations and in home gardens. The chervil is a freezer, which means that it is sown in autumn and, thanks to the cold of winter, germinates the following spring. Between August and October, the seeds are sown directly in the bed, with a row spacing of 20 centimeters. Unfortunately, the germination capacity is often not particularly high, which is why it is better to sow more densely than you would, for example, with carrots.
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Caring for chervil is the same as for parsnips, carrots, and the like. In spring, the soil must always be well supplied with water during and after germination, because the turnips cannot stand drought and otherwise hardly thrive. After germination in spring, the plants are separated to 3 to 5 centimeters. The thick roots of the medium-eating chervil mainly take up nitrogen and potassium from the soil.
Fertilization with a predominantly organic long-term fertilizer replenishes the soil’s supply of nutrients and protects the soil’s life. The plant-based granulate is easily worked into the soil around the crop and kept moist. The nutrients contained are then released evenly over a period of two months and supply the bulbous calf’s head with all the essential minerals. The chervil is unfortunately quite weak competitive compared to other plants and therefore has to be freed from weeds regularly.
Propagation of the bulbous calf’s goiter
If you want to propagate the chervil yourself, you have to overwinter the plant twice: once as a seed in the soil and the following year as a root. Just like most umbelliferous plants, it is a biennial plant that, true to its name, does not bloom until its second year of life, produces seeds, and ultimately dies. In the spring, elongated flower stems quickly form on the two-year-old chervil, with an umbel flower at the tip, waiting for eager pollinators. Several flowering chervil beets should stand next to each other for propagation so that many seeds can be harvested later.
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In late summer, the now brown, slightly curved seeds are ready to be harvested. The best way to do this is to cut off the entire umbel and let it dry well until the seeds can be easily removed. Ideally, sow the seeds again immediately after the seed harvest, because the seeds of the chervil quickly lose their ability to germinate and should soon be back under the ground. In the case of very well dried seeds, the germination capacity can be extended by freezing them.
Harvesting and using the chervil
The turnips are harvested in July, as soon as the foliage has completely yellowed. You can leave the roots in the ground until autumn, but mice also love the unique taste of chervil and are happy to strike generously. In the cellar, the harvested turnips are pounded into wet sand without leaves and then stored for about two months. This is the only way for the chervil to achieve its full aromatic taste. The bulbous calf’s head is ideal peeled for soups and mixed with potatoes for a tasty puree. The fine chestnut aroma also unfolds very well in risottos and casseroles.
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Do you ask yourself every year where which type of vegetable should be placed in the garden and who gets along well with which neighbor in which location? A vegetable growing plan can help with all of these questions. We’ll show you how to do it without any problems.