Don’t forget the chervil or rib seed

Chervil is a forgotten vegetable. Europeans used to eat a lot of chervil, but not anymore. Chervil resembles real chervil in terms of leaf growth, but is not related to it. Chervil has an edible tuber and is therefore grown in the Netherlands, Germany and Eastern Europe. In the Netherlands, the plant occurs sporadically in the wild along the rivers. It is a biennial plant from the sycamore family. The tuber has a delicious, nutty taste. NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.

Botanical drawing of chervil / Source: Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen, Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)


  • Naming of chervil
  • History of chervil
  • Large-scale reintroduction of chervil as a food crop?
  • Chervil vegetable garden
  • Eating tips chervil
  • Store chervil


Naming of chervil

In Latin the plant is called Chaerophyllum bulbosum . Bulbosum means ‘tuber-shaped’. Chaerophyllum is the family name of 35 turnip-like plants. In Dutch the plant is called chervil or knolrib seed. The last word comes from the fact that the seed is ribbed. Because the leaves resemble chervil leaves, it is called chervil. The old leaves of chervil are not edible, but the young leaves are eaten, at least in Germany. They can serve as soup seasonings.

History of chervil

Chervil originally comes from the Caucasus mountain region. The vegetable was already eaten in southeastern Europe in ancient times. The vegetable was brought to Central and Northern Europe by monks. In the 16th century, chervil was sold on the market in Vienna. This vegetable was not imported into France until 1846. From that time onwards, the chervil spread throughout Europe, but its popularity began to decline. The vegetable was widely grown in the Netherlands until the beginning of the 19th century. It was then replaced by the potato. The tuber itself is light brown, gray to black on the outside and white-yellow on the inside.

Large-scale reintroduction of chervil as a food crop?

Since the end of the second millennium, science has been investigating whether chervil is an interesting food crop to reintroduce on a large, commercial scale. It could be grown for its high carbohydrate content. Research has been conducted, among other things, under which conditions the chervil becomes sweet enough and tasty for consumption. It turns out that if it has to endure temperatures of around four degrees, it automatically becomes sweeter; that process is called ‘cold sweetening’, which can be translated as ‘cold sweetening’.

Chervil vegetable garden

Chervil is a cold germinator, which means that it must have had some frost to germinate. You sow it in the autumn and it will grow in the spring. This plant can grow up to one to two meters high. Its flowering period is from June to September; it blooms with white lacecap flowers. It takes about 9 months to be ready for harvest. Sown in the autumn means that this plant can be harvested in the summer. The plants grow in rows, about 6 inches apart. There is 25 centimeters between the rows. Because

Chervil / Source: Franz Xaver, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

the plant takes a relatively long time to grow, you can grow onions and lettuce respectively in the rows from spring onwards. The chervil root will not be very large in the first year. What you can then do is plant the small bulbs again immediately and harvest them again exactly 12 months later; then the roots become considerably larger.

Eating tips chervil

Chervil cannot be eaten raw. Boiled, stewed and pureed it is delicious and the chervil tastes slightly like chestnuts or hazelnut. You can boil chervil for 15 minutes and puree it while mixing it with cream or butter. You will then get a delicious puree. You can easily add chervil to vegetable soup, or make a cream soup based on chervil.

Store chervil

It can be stored for a few months in the refrigerator compartment. Traditionally it is kept in slightly damp sand in boxes, together with carrot and parsnip. When the chervil is stored longer, it tastes sweeter.

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