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Anthriscus, also known as chervil, is a plant genus of the Apiaceae family. The genus includes 12 species, which can be found growing in the temperate regions of Asia and Europe. Many of these types of plants are food plants. Anthriscus cerefolium, also known as French parsley or garden chervil, is cultivated to be used as a cooking spice, and the cow parsley variety is eaten by the mouse moth larvae.
Anthriscus cerefolium was called cherifolium by the Romans, in reference to the delightful aniseed-type aroma of the plant leaves. To preserve their flavor for culinary use, it is best to use the leaves while they are still fresh; it is possible, however, to deep-freeze them for later use. The leaves are chopped up into fine bits, and can be used to garnish and flavor a variety of soups, salads, meats, vegetables and other dishes.
Unlike garden chervil, which cannot generally survive in the wild, cow parsley can be commonly found growing along roadsides, in meadows and in woodlands. Owing to its fast-growing and invasive nature, it can be something of a nuisance in gardens, and is banned in many areas as a noxious weed. It can also be used as an edible spice, but it is not quite as pleasant as the garden chervil. If the cow parsley leaves are crushed and rubbed on the skin, they can serve as a rather efficient mosquito repellent.
The chervil plants generally grow to be about 20 inches (50.8 cm) in height, and have an erect, branched and hollow stem. The leaves are first light green in color and then, as they mature, turn reddish-brown. They are triangular in shape, and are divided into two or three leaflet sections, giving them a somewhat lacy appearance. In the spring and the summer, these plants produce compound umbels of small white flowers; an umbel is a floral arrangement of several small flower stalks set on a main stalk.
Propagation of Anthriscus plants takes place from seeds. The seeds should be planted in spring or late summer, and it is best to plant directly in the area or container in which they are to be grown; these are not plants that take kindly to transplanting. They should be planted in a shady area as they tend to wilt in direct sunlight, and it is important to give them regular and plentiful watering, especially in the summer months.