Anthriscus cerefolium (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

1, leaf; 2, flowering and fruiting branch; 3, flower; 4, mericarp

Anthriscus cerefolium (L.) G.F. Hoffmann

Protologue: Gen. pl. umbell.: 41 (1814).
Family: Umbelliferae
Chromosome number: 2n = 18


  • Scandix cerefolium L. (1753),
  • Anthriscus longirostris Bertol. (1837),
  • Chaerefolium cerefolium (L.) Schinz & Thell. (1909).

Vernacular names

  • Chervil, garden chervil (En)
  • Cerfeuil (Fr)

Origin and geographic distribution

Chervil is indigenous to south-eastern Europe, western Asia and central and southern Russia. It has been cultivated in Europe since the 16th Century; at present it is cultivated and subspontaneous in all parts of the world. In South-East Asia it is occasionally cultivated in Java (Indonesia) and the Philippines.


Chervil is widely used as a culinary herb; it is one of the traditional "fines herbes" in French cuisine, valued for its light parsley-like flavour with a hint of myrrh. Dried chervil may be used to scent potpourris. Fresh leaves and stems are used to flavour soups, casseroles, salads, sauces, eggs (particularly omelettes), carrots, spinach, sorrel, fish, and cheese. Chervil also is used in herbal butters and in cosmetics. Medicinally, an infusion of chervil is used to stimulate the digestion and alleviate circulation disorders.

The regulatory status of chervil in the United States is "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS 2279). The maximum permitted level is 0.1% of the herb in meat and meat products.

Production and international trade

Chervil is of minor importance in trade; no information on production and trade is available.


Chervil was once called "myrrhis”, because of its volatile oil, which has an aroma similar to the resinous substance of myrrh. The essential oil is characterized by 3 constituents: undecane, methyl chavicol (estragole) and methyl eugenol (1-allyl-2,4-dimethoxybenzene). These compounds constitute about 95% of the oil. The composition of the essential oil varies at different stages of growth. Undecane increases to a maximum of about 20% after flowering, methyl chavicol increases to a maximum of about 70% at full flower and methyl eugenol reaches a maximum of about 70% before flowering. Methyl chavicol and methyl eugenol are carcinogenic in rats.


Chervil oil (from France) (Source: Rigaud & Sarris, 1982)

  • 75.0% methyl chavicol
  • 20.0% 1-allyl-2,4-dimethoxybenzene
  • 0.1% α-pinene
  • 0.1% β-pinene
  • 0.1% limonene
  • 0.1% dodecanal
  • 0.1% nerol
  • 0.1% geraniol
  • 0.1% neral
  • 0.1% geranial
  • 0.1% geranyl acetate
  • 0.1% β-caryophyllene
  • 0.1% eugenol
  • 0.1% p-methoxyphenylacetone
  • 0.1% bisabolene (unknown isomer)
  • 0.1% β-ionone
  • 0.1% (Z)-3-hexenol
  • 0.1% undecane
  • 0.1% zingiberene
  • 0.1% 1-hexanol
  • 0.1% chavicol
  • 0.1% benzyl alcohol
  • 0.1% β-gurjunene
  • 0.1% geranyl propionate
  • 0.1% 2-phenylethanol
  • 0.1% 3-nonanol
  • 0.1% 1-nonen-3-ol
  • 0.1% 2-hexenal
  • 0.1% 3-hexenal
  • 0.1% (E,E)-2,4-hexadienal
  • 0.1% 5-methylhex-4-enone-3
  • 0.1% nonanone-3
  • 0.1% (E)-3-hexenyl acetate
  • 0.1% nonenyl-3 acetate
  • 0.1% neryl propionate
  • 0.1% 2,5-dimethoxy-allylbenzene (tent.)
  • 0.1% allyl-3,5-dimethoxybenzene
  • 0.1% chavibetol
  • 0.1% 1-nonenyl-3 acetate
  • 0.1% γ-dodecalactone
  • 0.1% p-methoxy-phenylpropan-1-one
  • 98.9% total

Adulteration and substitutes

The closest substitute as an edible herb is parsley. The oil may be adulterated with methyl chavicol.


  • Annual, sweetly aromatic herb, up to 70 cm tall, somewhat hirsute. Roots thin, whitish. Stem branched, terete, finely grooved.
  • Leaves alternate, up to 3-pinnate with pinnatifid lobes; petiole of the lower leaves up to 7 cm long, with sheathed base, upper leaves with shorter petiole or sessile on the sheath; blade of lower leaves triangular in outline, 4-11 cm × 3-15 cm, 2-3-pinnate.
  • Inflorescence a di-monochasium of sessile compound umbels; involucre absent; involucel with 3-4 narrow, lanceolate bracteoles, about 2 mm × 0.75 mm; umbels 2-5 cm in diameter; rays of the main umbel 2-6, 0.5-2.5 cm long; pedicels 4-9, 2-5 mm long.
  • Flowers bisexual, 5-merous, white, small; calyx absent or greatly reduced; petals 5, obcordate, 1-1.5 mm long with short inflexed tips; stamens 5, free; pistil with inferior, bilocular, 2-carpelled ovary and 2 styles, swollen and spreading at the base.
  • Fruit a schizocarp with 2 glabrous or hairy mericarps; mericarp almost linear, 5-10 mm × 1 mm, slightly 5-ribbed, black and finely granular when ripe, bearing a beak up to 4 mm long.

Growth and development

Chervil has a short life span. The period from sowing to harvest can be as short as 6 weeks in a greenhouse, and less than 6 months in the field.

Other botanical information

In A. cerefolium 2 groups of plants can be distinguished:

  • cv. group Chervil (synonym: var. cerefolium): fruit glabrous. This is the cultivated form in which several cultivars can be distinguished (e.g. plants with curled or flat leaves);
  • var. longirostris (Bertol.) Cannon: fruit with numerous hooked hairs. This is the wild form from which the cultivated form has been derived.


Chervil is heat-sensitive; it grows poorly in hot, dry conditions and needs protection against direct sunlight. In the tropics cultivation is normally restricted to the cooler, high-altitude regions. Chervil prefers moist soils rich in organic matter with a pH of 6.5. Chervil is susceptible to frost.

Propagation and planting

Propagation is by seed. Seeds remain viable for 2-3 years. Seeds should be sown in shallow drills 30 cm apart. When seedlings are 7.5 cm tall, they should be thinned to 7-10 cm apart; they are too fragile to be transplanted.


In small-scale cultivation, weed control is by mechanical means, but herbicides can be used. High levels of N (e.g. 400 kg/ha) give a marked increase in nitrate levels in chervil.

Diseases and pests

A number of virus diseases (e.g. parsnip yellow fleck, anthriscus yellow) occur, probably transmitted by aphids. The chervil webworm (Depressaria chaerophylli) and larvae of Lixus paraplecticus may damage the umbels; the leaves are sometimes damaged by aphids.


Leaves and stems are picked as needed, but before the flower buds open. For denser foliage, flower stems should be cut before they bloom.


After 42 days in hydroponics in a greenhouse a yield of 2.3 kg/m2 has been reported. No field information is available.

Handling after harvest

The foliage is dried on wire racks in a cool, ventilated, shady place. Dried, brittle leaves (either whole or crumbled) must be stored in an airtight container. Fresh chervil may be chopped and frozen with water in ice cube trays. Post-harvest handling of fresh chervil involves delaying senescence by vacuum pre-cooling, refrigeration during transport, and using unperforated polythene liners to increase the CO2 levels in the atmosphere and diminish the effect of ethylene.

Genetic resources and breeding

There are no germplasm collections and breeding programmes for chervil.


A recent development in north-eastern Europe has been the production of chervil in a hydroponic system year-round, with supplementary lighting in winter, and cooling in summer. This has the advantage of providing a high-quality leafy product with a lower nitrate level than can be achieved in soil.

Chervil is produced small-scale in the Philippines by specialized farms meeting the demand from international hotels and restaurants.

The production of chervil solely for its essential oil is unlikely to be economic.


  • Benoit, F. & Ceustermans, N., 1992. Hydroculture of culinary herbs. Revue de l'Agriculture 45(6): 1077-1089.
  • Buwalda, P., 1949. Chaerefolium. In: van Steenis, C.G.G.J. (Editor): Flora Malesiana, Series 1, Vol. 4. Noordhoff-Kolff, Jakarta, Indonesia. p. 127.
  • Cannon, J.F.M., 1968. Anthriscus. In: Tutin, T.G. et al. (Editors): Flora Europaea. Vol. 2. University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom. p. 326.
  • Lemberkovics, E., Petri, G., Vitanyi, G. & Lelik, L., 1994. Essential oil composition of chervil growing wild in Hungary. Part 1. Journal of Essential Oil Research 6(4): 421-422.
  • Philosoph-Hadas, S., Jacob, D., Meir, S. & Aharoni, N., 1993. Mode of action of CO2 in delaying senescence of chervil leaves. Acta Horticulturae 343: 117-122.
  • Robbins, S.R.J. & Greenhalgh, P., 1979. The markets for selected herbaceous essential oils. Tropical Science 21(2): 63-70.

Sources of illustrations

Anthriscus cerefolium: Butcher, R.W., 1961. A new illustrated British flora. Part 1. Leonard Hill, London, United Kingdom. Fig. 722, p. 824 (leaf, flowering and fruiting branch, mericarp); Hegi, G., 1926. Illustrierte Flora von Mittel-Europa [Illustrated flora of Central Europe]. Vol. 5(2). Lehmanns Verlag, München, Germany. Fig. 2384, p. 1028 (flower). Redrawn and adapted by P. Verheij-Hayes.


  • M.A. Nichols