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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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chervil a name derived from the Greek chaerophyllon, meaning herb of rejoicing, is applied to two quite different cultivated plants, and to one wild one. The most familiar chervil is an umbelliferous plant, Anthriscus cerefolium, which looks rather like curly-leafed parsley but is sparer, more feathery, and more upright. Originally a wild plant native to W. Asia, it was first cultivated in Syria, according to Pliny the Elder (1st century ad). The Syrians ate chervil as a raw or cooked leaf vegetable; but in Roman cuisine it was used as a flavouring herb, as it is now. It has consistently enjoyed a reputation for restorative powers. As Gerard (1633) said: ‘It is good for old people: it rejoiceth and comforteth the heart and increaseth their strength.’