Popular on the Continent, rare in the colonies
Anthriskos is the Greek name of this plant; the species name cerefolium appears to mean “leaves like wax” and might refer to the bright green color, but is more likely a spelling mistake for cherifolium (Greek chairephyllon), the name the Romans used for this plant (Greek chairein “to delight in” and phyllon “leaf”, referring to the pleasant aroma of the leaves). Chervil comes from small dark ferns in the parsley family. Its flavor is anise – like. Usually grown for its leaves alone, the root is also edible. The root was much enjoyed by Ancient Greeks and Romans. Chervil is native to Eastern Europe and Western Asia. It was introduced to France and England by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago. Both dried and fresh chervil are available today. It may be used like parsley but the much more delicate flavor can sometimes be lost in certain dishes especially when boiled. Just as a side note, it is rarely a good idea to boil any herb or spice.
It is sometimes called “gourmet parsley”. Chervil is used to season poultry, seafood, and vegetables. It is very popular in France, where it is added to omelets, salads and soups. It is one of the four herbs in French Fine (pronounced feen) Herbs; the herbs are chervil, tarragon, parsley, and chives. Chervil is popular in Central and Western Europe; the leaves are chopped and added to soups, salads and fish dishes, much in the same way as parsley or coriander leaves, which we know as cilantro. In addition to boiling, their fragrance does not tolerate long cooking periods very well either. In North European countries, chervil is often substituted by a related herb, cicely or Spanish chervil, which has a stronger, anise-like aroma.
Although parsley may be used sparingly as a substitute, it is best to use the real thing.